Polarity II

This is a continuation of my previous post “Polarity”, which discusses Mental and Emotional disorders, their causes, and ends with a description of of symptoms of a severe depressive episode.

Major Depressive Disorder, sometimes referred to as “Clinical Depression”, is one of the most widespread Mental Health Issues in America, affecting anywhere from 10-17% percent of the populace at one point or another (these numbers actually refer not to people diagnosed with the chronic form of MDD, but to people who experience a severe episode of Depression, such as I described in my last post). As with most Mental Disorders, no cure exists for the chronic form, though it is both treatable and manageable, with medication, and various forms of psychotherapy.

Perhaps the worst thing about depression is the truly depressing number of things that can cause it … severe episodes of depression can occur with nearly all other psychiatric conditions, as well as a truly huge number of other conditions, ranging from metabolic and hormonal conditions, to physical injury, cancer, and disorders related to childbirth (most commonly Post-Partum Depression.)  And that’s not even considering any of the various life events that can trigger it …

Depression is also a major feature of Bi-Polar Disorder, sometimes called my its old name of Manic-Depressive disorder. There are two major forms of Bi-Polar Disorder, and a few less common variants.  Bi-Polar I is, in most people’s estimation (including mine), much more severe than the Bi-Polar II that I suffer from.  Bi-Polar I Disorder is characterized by severe episodes of mania,  and occasional bouts of depression, while Bi-Polar II is the other way around:  manic episodes are much milder in BPII, and occur less frequently, while the depressions happen much more often…

Basically, a manic phase is a period of extreme energy … thoughts race, speech may be so blurringly fast that other people can’t follow it, and thoughts may leap from one topic to another so quickly that it may seem the person is babbling … depending on the sufferer, a manic phase can be accompanied by elation, grandiose thoughts, impatience, temper, and as much as a 20 point bump in IQ.  Sadly, in a true manic phase, it’s nearly impossible for many sufferers to channel that energy and intelligence into useful activity, because it’s just so easy to become distracted and jump to another line of thought.  Very severe manic phases can be downright scary, for people who aren’t aware of the disorder:  a bad manic phase can resemble a Meth or Cocaine high, to the uninformed, and can be extremely stressful for family members… a very severe manic phase may require hospitalization of the sufferer.  For BPII sufferers like me, true manic phases are rare, or non-existent … instead, we have occasional bouts of what’s referred to as hypomania (“lesser mania”) … for many of us, these less extreme manic phases are actually pleasant:  it’s difficult to focus on one thing, but the extra energy, confidence, and ease and speed of thought are a huge relief from the depressions! To most people, even at my most manic, it just seems as if I maybe had a bit too much coffee…

Worse is a phenomenon that can occur in both forms of BPD:  dysphoria.  A dysphoric state happens when a person is manic and depressed at the same time;  for some, this sort of state involves all the gloom and pain of depression, but an inability to rest, to distract oneself, or to think of anything but one’s troubles… it’s common to obsessively follow the same cycle of painful thoughts again, and again, and again, like an endless record that just won’t STOP!  In my case, a dysphoric phase can be even worse: in addition to the restlessness, and obsessive thinking, there is the impatience and irritability that can cause me to fly into a rage at the least little thing – friends and family of a person with this sort of reaction can feel like they’re treading through a minefield, never knowing what little misstep may trigger an explosion!

Finally, there’s a condition referred to as Rapid-Cycling … mood-swings so sudden and severe that in the space of  a few minutes, one can go from the depths of suicidal despair, to the elation and bubbly good humor of a manic phase, only to crash again in sudden heart-wracking tears.

I keep mentioning friends and family, for, while these things are tough for the sufferer, they are as bad, if not worse, for those around him:  the sufferer, especially if he’s learned a little bit about the disorder, at least has a clue what’s going on, and can sometimes feel the changes coming – those around him can be horribly confused, and frightened, and heart-broken to have to watch it, and know there’s little or nothing they can do except try to be understanding…

(to be continued)

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~ by dourscot on January 4, 2012.

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