Mood Changes Don’t Make Someone Bipolar
August 18, 2019
Laura Lee

Today I was sitting at home browsing through Netflix. I stumbled upon a movie that I wanted to watch back in the day, The Intern, starring Ann Hathaway and Robert De Niro. One of the gags in the movie was that Matt, the husband of Hathaway’s character, describes a child with mood changes as “bipolar”, which caused his child to also use that description. That left me a bit confused and angry. Why is that a joke? Why is that used as an insult? I think at the end of the day the reason it affected me so much was that saying someone is “bipolar” when their mood changes is not right and can actually be damaging.

See, many people mistake bipolar disorder for a quick change of emotions and behaviors. While the intensity of the disorder may be there, people seem to misunderstand the paste of it. There are actually four types of bipolar disorder: bipolar 1 disorder, bipolar 2 disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders. Bipolar 1 and 2 disorders are more common than the others, therefore, I am going to focus on them. So, what is the difference between the two?

All episodes of bipolar disorder are characterized by episodes of extreme moods. The highs are known as manic episodes and the lows as depressive episodes. However, the fundamental difference between both disorders is the severity of the manic episodes caused by each type. According to Healthline, A person with bipolar 1 will experience a full manic episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience only a hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full manic episode). Also, a person with bipolar 1 may or may not experience a major depressive episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience a major depressive episode.

According to Sophie Lazarus, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State’s College of Medicine, in a manic episode, the patient must exhibit three of the following: “Grandiosity of inflated self-esteem, reduced need for sleep, increased talkativeness, flight of ideas, being very easily distracted, increased activity or agitated movements and risk behaviors with potential for harmful consequences.”

In comparison, bipolar 2 disorder involves a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is also a mood episode that like a manic episode involves disinhibition, euphoria, and behaviors that are noticeably different from a person’s usual behaviors. However, as mentioned, the severity of the episode is different, as it is less severe than a full manic episode.

Depressive episodes may include extended periods of sadness and hopelessness. Other symptoms include loss of interest in people and activities you liked, tiredness, lack of interest in life, or even death, among others.

Unlike all of this, mood swings are normal ups and downs relating our day to day life. The ups and the downs usually don’t last very long, happen frequently, and stem from something, meaning, it’s very rare that they occur without a reason. Manic or depressive episodes on the other hand, typically last an extended period of time and impair one’s daily life.

In recent years, more and more celebrities including, among others, Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, and Catherine Zeta-Jones have opened up about their experience with bipolar disorder. This is a blessed change, as the subject was considered taboo for many years. The condition is not uncommon, so awareness is very important. It is important to note, bipolar disorder does not have to prevent a person from living a full and meaningful life. Bipolar disorder is a serious condition and not something to joke about. Hopefully, jokes like the made in The Intern will not repeat themselves.

If you need support, here are a few options available for you:

So, please, reach out and get the help you need.

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