The South African Bipolar Association
WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER?
Bipolar disorder is an illness that causes severe mood swings, from the highest of highs (mania) to the lowest of lows (depression).
One in a hundred people are affected by the illness.
It affects woman and men equally.
It tends to affect the middle to upper social economic classes more that the lower economic classes.
It normally comes to the fore between 20 to 30 years of age, but this may also vary.
Persons with bipolar disorder usually have frequent episodes of the illness which are destructive of their private and professional lives.
In order to explain bipolar affective disorder, it is important to differentiate between the ups and downs in mood that everyone has and those of the bipolar sufferer.
Everyone has feelings of happiness, sadness, anger etc…, which are normal emotions and are part of everyday life. Bipolar disorder in contrast is a medical condition in which people have mood swings out of proportion, or totally unrelated to what is going on in their lives.
These swings affect thoughts, feelings, physical health, behaviour and functioning.
It is imperative to note that bipolar disorder is not anyone's fault, nor do they have an unstable personality - it occurs due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and is more importantly, treatable.
Bipolar disorder and diabetes can be compared, as both require both ongoing medical treatment (medication) and monitoring by the sufferer or patient. Just as diabetics must take their medication, monitor their sugar levels and monitor how they feel physically, bipolars must take their medication, monitor their medication levels and monitor how they feel emotionally.
Society expects illnesses to be cured and is often not prepared to tolerate those who require constant treatment for illnesses that have no known cure.
Unfortunately, to this day, most mental illnesses are treated rather than cured.