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Mental Health

Bipolar Is More Than an Adjective


“Bipolar.” Definition: A word used fleetingly in everyday conversation without the proper context of the complexity of the disorder.

“My mom just flipped out on me. She’s so bipolar, I swear.”

“This girl I’m seeing is so bipolar. Went from all giggly to bursting out in tears.”

“Just make up your mind already, you’re so bipolar.”

There is such thing as mood swings, being indecisive, and becoming upset suddenly. However, none of those occurrences concretely line up with being bipolar. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder is a brain disorder than invokes clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.

The majority of people with bipolar disorder cycle through depressive stages that are countered with stages of incredibly elevated moods. The rotation between elevated and depressed moods can also be filled with periods where you’re neither of the two. That’s why it can prove difficult to recognize the symptoms yourself and be properly diagnosed. Nearly 1 out of 5 people who seek professional help to treat depression actually have bipolar disorder. Depression is a hallmark of the disorder, but it is deeper than dealing with solely that.

During the less frequent episodes of mania or hypomania, at first, it's difficult for someone bipolar to realize their behavior isn’t regulated. The extreme uptick in energy, increased activity, and self-confidence that borders on euphoric may seem like one is experiencing a period where they can do anything. In extreme cases, racing thoughts can lead to a sufferer being frightened. These periods of invincibility or irritability can lead to making incredibly risky or dangerous decisions, which can involve substance abuse.

Being bipolar may seem so out of reach, but the “it would never happen to me” mindset is very dangerous when it comes to something more common than we think. Bipolar disorder can occur at nearly any age, but it is most commonly developed and diagnosed in the late teens and early twenties. 6 million American adults have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That doesn't even begin to account for the millions of undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases.

Mariah Carey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Britney Spears are public figures diagnosed with bipolar disorder that disprove several stigmas of the disorder. Although there is no definitive cure and symptoms can progressively get worse without treatment, that doesn't mean sufferers cannot be successful, functioning members of society. 

Source: Mental Health America

It’s important to step back and recognize the patterns of behavior you or somebody you know may experience – unexplainable shopping sprees, excessive binge drinking or substance abuse, insomnia or way too much sleep, a steep increase in sexual activities or number of partners, suicidal thoughts, difficulty in the workplace (calling out, inability to show up, inflated ego), irrational or dangerous behaviors, and more.

Many of these signs show the extreme highs and lows of bipolar disorder. However, none of these are telltale signs of being bipolar. Exercise caution when attempting to diagnose yourself and seek a proper diagnosis. Because of the different types of bipolar disorder (Type I, Type II, Cyclothymia, and others), the type of treatment may vary. College campuses are a safe place for when you believe you may have a problem. GSU's Department of Counseling & Psychological Services offers medical evaluation for students and have professionals ready and capable to combat any potential prognosis with you. Cost should be of no worry to you - services are already paid for annually in your student fees.  

Above all, remember that you are not your disorder. Bipolar disorder may be a single piece of the puzzle that is you, but it will never define you. 


Kayla is a senior at Georgia State University, pursuing a degree in Multimedia Journalism and Spanish & Latin American Studies. She is a devoted mother to her Yorkie and Lifetime fanatic. Her other ventures include writing poetry, advocating for a plant-powered lifestyle, and interning at Seacrest Studios. Oh, and Willy's makes her world go 'round. ☼
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