Vlog Summary: Bipolar disorder is a term that is once again receiving a great deal of attention on television, in newspapers, and even in the Deaf community. Britney Spears’ behaviors of late, for example, have spurred rumors that she might have bipolar disorder. Although ASC does not endorse psychiatric labels, we do think it is important to clarify some misconceptions about bipolar disorder. As Sharon Duchesneau explains, bipolar disorder is a serious medical condition characterized by intense, chemically based mood swings. Symptoms of mania can include overly optimistic mood, racing thoughts, bursts of creativity, high energy, excessive activity, reduced need for sleep, grandiosity, impulsivity, making decisions quickly without thinking them through, gambling, promiscuity, and overspending. Depressive symptoms can include feelings of sadness or worthlessness, sleeping too much or too little, overeating or not eating at all, difficulty finding pleasure in life, lack of hope for the future, and suicidal ideations or attempts.
Not everyone with bipolar disorder has the same experience with mood swings. Some adults may have manic symptoms for weeks or months, then a period of stability, then weeks or months of depression. Children and teenagers tend to have more fluctuations in moods, sometimes experiencing mania and depression in the same day.
Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, not only because it looks different in everyone, but also because many people with bipolar disorder use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. This can worsen or mask the symptoms. Once diagnosed properly, however, bipolar disorder can be controlled with a careful regimen of medication, psychotherapy/counseling, sleeping, eating, and exercising regularly, and a supportive network of family and friends. Although the movies and media often over-dramatize bipolar disorder and perpetuate the myth that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder tend to be violent or stupid, this is far from the truth. People with bipolar disorders can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Actors Robin Williams and Patty Duke, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin are just a few renowned Americans who have lived with bipolar disorder.
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, D.C, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
Duchesneau, S. M. & McCullough, C. A. (2006, June 21). Label Jars, Not People. ASC on the Couch. Retrieved (date retrieved), from http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=65
Redfield Jamison, Kay (1995). The Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
To cite: Duchesneau, S. (2008, January 21). The Facts about Bipolar Disorder. ASC on the Couch. Retrieved (date retrieved), from http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=333