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Here's Everything You Need To Know About Bipolar Disorder

Do you think you might have it?

What is a bipolar disorder?

"It's a psychiatric illness characterized by extreme mood swings," explains Dr. Randy Dellosa, resident psychiatrist and psychologist for the reality TV show Pinoy Big Brother. Genes definitely play a big role, as well as a chemical imbalance in the brain. "Bipolar refers to two opposite poles or moods: depression, a period of persistent sadness and low energy with feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness; and mania, characterized by elation and high energy: you're either bubbly and cheerful, or irritable and prone to anger." But how do you distinguish normal happiness from mania, or plain sadness from depression?

Pole 1: Mania

According to Dellosa, "A little mania is like taking an energy drink. You have more vigor, you think more creatively, you become more of a risk-taker."

Manic people can suddenly spend all their money, announcing, "Ililibre ko kayong lahat!" Overconfidence is another sign. "Kung anu-ano ang gustong gawin. Maraming risky behavior," Dellosa adds.


Pole 2: Depression

Psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Anlacan names two considerations: duration, and whether your moods disrupt your daily routine. "To be considered depressive, you have to manifest the symptoms for at least two weeks; for manic episodes, at least a week: If you're sad but it doesn’t affect your work, it's not likely clinical depression." Dellosa adds, "Check for insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping), anorexia (loss of appetite) or hyperexia (excessive appetite)."

Acceptance and recovery

There are no studies that state the exact number of Filipinos diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And, says Dellosa, "It'll always be underreported, because people don't talk about it. The stigma is still there."

Accepting the disease is difficult, but instead of denying or minimizing the problem, those afflicted should be proactive and cover all ground to help control the disorder. There's nothing wrong with being sick. If you feel you have any of the symptoms, seeing a doctor is imperative. Learn about what may be triggering your episodes so you can better control your emotions. Apart from taking prescribed medication, counseling or psychotherapy may help.

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And while bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, both Dellosa and Anlacan stress that it can be managed with medication and psychotherapy. "I always tell my patients that with this disorder, your emotions are controlling you," says Anlacan. "It shouldn't have to be that way. If you have a mental illness, hahayaan mo lang bang sirain nito yung buhay mo? Or would you seek help so that the illness can be controlled and you can still achieve your goals and dreams?"

Dellosa furthers, "Bipolar disorder shouldn't disrupt a person's life. Many are able to manage their condition and are able to live normal lives." It's a matter of seeing it from a perspective vastly different from society's typical "may 'topak' kasi siya" stance. "It's a chemical imbalance," says Dellosa, "which, like other medical problems—diabetes, seizures—needs to be medically treated. You need to balance these chemicals, so your life can go on."


Could you be bipolar?

If you tick off three out of the seven manic symptoms AND four out of the nine depressive signs, you may need to see a psychiatrist, stat.

Manic symptoms

Note: Symptoms have to last for at least a week.

  • Do you feel confident and invincible?
  • Do you have a decreased need for sleep?
  • Are you more talkative than usual?
  • Are your ideas flying faster than you can keep up?
  • Are you easily distracted?
  • Are you feeling extra impulsive, risqué even?
  • Do you feel agitated?

Depressive symptoms

Note: Symptoms have to last for at least two weeks.

  • Are you sad most of the day?
  • Have previously enjoyable things stopped being so for you?
  • Are you fidgety?
  • Or practically immobile?
  • Do you feel inexplicably tired all the time?
  • Do you have feelings of worth-lessness and guilt?
  • Are you having trouble focusing?
  • Do you have recurring thoughts of death?
  • Have you lost or gained weight significantly?
  • Have you had trouble sleeping?
  • Have you been oversleeping?
  • Are you feeling extra impulsive, risqué even?
  • Do you feel agitated?

This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, June 2014. 

* Minor edits have been made by editors

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