Poles Apart – Decoding Bipolar Disorder

Poles Apart – Decoding Bipolar Disorder

by Dr. Debasmita Dey

Posted on 26th September, 2023 at 5:52:27 AM

Bipolar Affective Disorder or Bipolar Disorder, as it is known commonly called is an interesting phenomenon.
Let us consider the two ‘poles’ of Bipolar Disorder. If Depression is the South Pole, then consider Mania as the North Pole. Affect, simply put, is the current emotional state of the mind. For a person living with this condition, this mental state swings from one pole to another, rapidly and totally.

Depression, the South Pole is all cold and dreary. Nothing seems pleasurable to the individual. There is no joy in living, working or socializing. The body feels fatigued, devoid of sleep, appetite or libido. There is no motivation for going on anymore. The person feels worthless and helpless. The future looks dark and hopeless. The person often turns to alcohol or other drugs for solace, but they offer little support. At this point, suicide seems like a logical way out.

The North Pole, or Mania is all bright and sunny. The individual feels charged up, full of bright ideas and lots of energy. Nothing seems impossible here, be it an unrealistic business endeavor or freeing the country from the grip of poverty. The person is overtly talkative, very jovial and goes about socializing with every Tom, Dick and Harry they meet. Such individuals feel they have little need for rest or sleep, often going on for days with only 2-3 hours of sleep a night. They overestimate their powers and often meet nasty accidents while driving at reckless speed or getting beaten up in a street- brawl. Yes, they are provoked very easily. Anyone who dares oppose their unrealistic ideas faces their wrath, often getting beaten up or abused. Money is spent liberally, be it on alcohol, recreational drugs, gambling or feeding the poor and needy. With such individuals, you never know.

So how long does the individual stay at each pole? That is unpredictable but a switch to the other pole is always imminent. There might even be a period where he/she touches middle ground and comes back to reality. This point is again dangerous. As the individual comes to terms with the damage that occurred to their career and relationships during the manic or depressive phase, it might drive them to sheer frustration or suicide.

Over my years as a psychiatrist, I have seen many brilliant minds and promising careers lost to an illness that could have been treated, had the patient and caregivers complied. So, for all those reading this blog, my sincere request would be that do consult a psychiatrist immediately if you or a near one is suffering from this condition and complete the treatment as advised. The way to cure may seem long and difficult, but it is always worth saving a life.

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