Monday, September 25

‘Today I’m bipolar’ and other topics about this disorder

It’s not always as cumbersome as you think

Solange Vazquez

Fiction has done a disservice to people with bipolar disorder, presenting them as charming, eccentric and exciting beings, forces of nature with great charisma and genius who sometimes (just sometimes) get a little flat. And we ourselves have accepted these stereotypes with amazing docility; So much so that we apply the term ‘bipolar’ to anyone who has perfectly normal mood swings. So, on the one hand, we swallow what the cinema and literature show about the disorder and, on the other hand, we trivialize it with expressions like ‘today I’m a little bipolar’. Finally, we put the icing on the cake when in real life we ​​meet someone who suffers from this disease and we look at them suspiciously (we think we are funny saying that ‘Menganito is bipolar’, but if they tell us that our co-worker is , we usually do not like it so much). So this Wednesday, World Bipolarity Day, we break some false myths about this pathology, whose prevalence is around 4% of the population in our country, adding all types of bipolarity and cases of cyclothymia, which would be the ‘ little sister’ and less serious of this disorder, that is, its ‘light’ version.

No, not always. A diagnosed and treated patient works, studies, has children… He is indistinguishable from any other person. “Bipolarity is a pathology of mood regulation that is characterized by distortions, by mood variations,” says Edorta Elizagarate, director of the National Updating Course in Psychiatry. As she explains, there are cases in which these changes are not very intense and are very little different from those that someone with a fickle personality may have. The red line between what is or is not pathological must be drawn by a professional, although in borderline cases it is not easy for them. Elizagarate, due to his extensive experience, plays with some references that seem enlightening to him when diagnosing. “For example, the irritability that those affected present is different,” she points out.

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Josselyn Sevilla, a health psychologist at TherapyChat, considers that these drastic changes between the euphoric and the depressed pole, so characteristic of this disorder, are usually different from the ups and downs that healthy people have in intensity and duration: “Everyone at some moments of our life, due to problems at work or, for example, recently, due to covid, we can have more mood swings. This is totally normal. But, if these variations affect our day to day, we must ask for help.


Those affected are heavily medicated.

It is a disorder that requires medication (normally, mood stabilizers) and that with adequate treatment has a good prognosis, since relapses decrease and recovery in episodes is shortened. Early detection and drugs are essential for those affected to have a good quality of life. “It is also useful to complete this with therapy to learn how to manage the disease,” adds Sevilla. In fact, in some cases that are mild or close to the bipolar spectrum but that do not reach it, continuous medication would not even be necessary. “In most cases, bipolarity is not as limiting as it is believed,” says the specialist.


We are all a little bipolar

“No no no. You are bipolar or you are not, ”clarifies Sevilla, who emphasizes that one thing is the popular way of speaking and quite another, reality. “This disorder should not be downplayed. Those affected, when they have a manic or depressive episode, have a very bad time. So it would be better to avoid jokes,” recommends Sevilla.


Bipolarity appears at any age

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed, in most cases, between the ages of 15 and 19. “That is, if you are lucky and the professional who attends to you knows how to see it –Elizagarate clarifies–. Because many remain undiagnosed. Mainly, because sometimes it resembles some personality disorders (the narcissistic, for example) or is taken as something punctual or typical of the ‘turkey age’ (since youth is when it usually emerges).

Is there any ‘clue’ that makes ordinary people suspect that we ourselves or someone around us suffer from bipolarity? There is. «If we meet an expansive, euphoric, brilliant and self-starter subject and suddenly he ‘loses the pedal’ and his projects become unreal and out of place…, this may be an indication. In any case, it is rare that he appears after 30”, says Elizagarate. Excessive sympathy or sexual life can also point in the same direction.


They are narcissistic, dangerous…

“It is believed that they are in a constant search for recognition and no, it is not their profile,” says Elizagarate. They are not dangerous either, at least “no more than the rest of the population.” Of course, they should be treated if necessary and not use drugs that increase their disinhibition.


Genetics is decisive

In this type of disorder, heritability is important –as Elizagarate points out, a first-degree relative (parents, siblings) of a patient has between five and ten times more chances of suffering from bipolar disorder–, but not a sure sentence. family predisposition, the right thing to do is to be alert to act quickly and avoid triggers of outbreaks, such as drug use.

No, it is not cured. The symptoms are controlled and the deterioration that occurs after each untreated episode is avoided. “Unlike other disorders that improve with age, such as personality disorders, this tends to worsen if left untreated,” clarifies the psychiatrist. Hence the importance of not letting your guard down.


  • gender differences
    The onset pictures in women are usually depressive (sadness, lack of mood, low energy) and in men, rather the opposite, they are manic (euphoria, irritability, increased libido).

  • Winston Churchill
    He suffered from bipolar disorder; in fact, he called his lowest moments “my black dog.” Elizagarate considers that there are many bipolar historical figures.

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