Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones shocked the world when she checked into a mental health facility a decade ago. Her decision was one of seeking treatment for bipolar disorder or, more specifically, bipolar II. She went on to state in a 2013 interview that it was easier for her to do in the States. In her native Britain, she said that “we have that stiff upper lip.”
Zeta-Jones was courageous in her decision to go public. She did so in order to encourage others to get treatment. And by the way, she’s not the only celebrity to come clean about bipolar disorder. Demi Lovato, Cobain, Sinead O’Connor, Carrie Fisher, and so many more have gone public with their bipolar diagnoses.
More Than Mood Swings
How much do you know about bipolar disorder? Many people consider it little more than occasional mood swings. However, there is a lot more to it than that. People with bipolar disorder exhibit periods of mania and depression. Symptoms of the condition vary depending on which end of the cycle a patient happens to be experiencing at any given time.
Bipolar disorder is a narcissistic psychosis, most of times with megalomaniac delirium. What makes bipolar disorder different from normal mood swings are the extremes. A bipolar individual in the middle of a manic episode will not just feel happy. They will be full of energy, likely to speak very quickly, easily distracted, less likely to sleep, and so on. Delusions and illogical thinking are common symptoms of manic episodes.
During depressive episodes, bipolar patients are extremely sad to the point of feeling utterly hopeless. They lack energy, have difficulty concentrating, and have no interest in daily activities. Sleeping difficulties, loss of appetite, and suicidal thoughts are all possible. And again, delusions and illogical thinking come with depressive episodes.
How It Is Diagnosed
Given that bipolar disorder is a mental health issue rather than a physical one, there are no diagnostic tests that can confirm a diagnosis. Nowadays, the diagnosis is almost always made by a psychiatrist. If a GP believes a patient might suffer from the disorder, that patient will generally be referred to a psychiatrist for further evaluation.
In Psychoanalysis, there is no diagnosis. The diagnosis and the treatment are the same: therapy. Psychoanalysis allows transformation. Nothing last for ever. According to psychoanalysis, mental health disorders (including bipolar) are positions in the language and as such, they can change.
How It Is Treated
If left untreated, manic and depressive episodes can last for months at a time. This is obviously not good for patients. On the other hand, proper treatment can stabilize a patient and allow them to lead a fairly normal life. According with traditional medicine, treatment options include:
- mood stabilizing medicines
- drugs that treat symptoms as they occur
- lifestyle changes
- learning and avoiding episode triggers.
It is rare for a bipolar disorder patient to be treated with a single treatment. Nearly all patients are offered a combination treatment plan that is developed based on their needs.
From a psychoanalyst’s perspective, I treat bipolar disorder with psychotherapy: the patient needs to freely associate whatever comes to his mind. When convenient, I will make some interpretations. With those interpretations, the patient will be able to understand the unconscious processes which have led them to be sick. With that new knowledge, he will be able to transform reality, a reality in which, he does not need to be sick. Treatment for this disorder can be intense but it is effective.
Needless to say, treating the mind can have a profound effect on the body and vice-versa.
Examples of famous people with bipolar disorder help spread awareness, encourage people to seek out help. While sometimes people think bipolar disorder can fuel creative and productive activity, Those people would be creative (or even more) if they were healthy. The truth is that this disorder often ends in substance abuse and tragedy.
As a psychoanalyst in London, I believe it is very important to get treatment for bipolar disorder in its earliest stages. If you suspect you are bipolar (even if you have not been diagnosed) and are interested in psychotherapy, I am here to help. Feel free to contact me!