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What People With Bipolar Disorder Want You To Know

Whenever a celebrity experiences a highly publicized mental health crisis, it sparks a critical conversation about mental illness, its stigma and treatment ― both on social media and within our communities.

Bipolar Disorder

Kanye West disclosed he was diagnosed with a mental health condition in 2018 and revealed through some of his lyrics on his album “Ye” that he was living with bipolar disorder. In the past few weeks, West’s mental health has become more of a focus following his Twitter storms, a recent rally in South Carolina ostensibly promoting his presidential candidacy and a statement released by his wife, Kim Kardashian West.

An estimated 2.8% of the adults in the U.S. have bipolar disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Moreover, 2019 statistics suggest that bipolar disorder affects around 45 million people worldwide. Still, bipolar disorder remains obscured by misconceptions.

“Bipolar disorder can indeed be an exceptionally complex condition with notable symptoms. Thus, one might feel especially reticent to share this specific diagnosis with those in their immediate and extended circles,” Hillary Goldsher, a clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, told HuffPost. “For the person doing the revealing, it is vulnerable and anxiety-provoking. Most people have potent preconceived notions about bipolar disorder. Accordingly, a diagnosed individual is understandably afraid the disclosure will result in a plethora of stigmas leveled at them.”

The hateful, misogynistic and racist comments West has made in recent weeks cannot be condoned; hate and bigotry are not symptoms of mental illness. However, the way bipolar disorder has recently been discussed in articles and in Twitter posts affects more than just celebrities who often have access to quality health care: It impacts the millions of other people with bipolar disorder trying to navigate stigma on a daily basis.

HuffPost spoke to people with bipolar disorder about what they wish others understood, from treatment to its impact on relationships:

Bipolar disorder is more than just a typical mood swing.

As the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance details, bipolar disorder is characterized by substantial shifts in one’s moods — typically going from extreme “highs” to “lows.” These include manic episodes, seen typically in bipolar I disorder, which can lead to high energy, excessive optimism, impulsivity, reckless behavior, anger, grandiosity, and, in some cases, delusions or hallucinations.

Those with bipolar II disorder typically experience hypomanic episodes, which is described as a less intense version of mania. Oppositely, depressive episodes include symptoms such as sadness, crying spells, lethargy, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, changes in sleep and appetite, and suicidal thoughts. According to the American Psychiatric Association, people with cyclothymic disorder, a milder form of bipolar disorder, experience these episodes to a lesser extent.

While there are a number of treatments that can work to manage both depressive and manic episodes, no cure-all exists for symptoms that is guaranteed to last throughout one’s lifetime.

“Medication and therapy help, but it’s a delicate balance that requires adjustment sometimes,” said Megan Hall, 34, the host of The Inspired Women Podcast. “I am doing the best I can to heal and remain stable, but no amount of willpower or positive thoughts will rid me of this disorder. The best thing people can do is have compassion, understanding and support me in doing the things that help me stay stable.”

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