Health: Not just a mood swing - Experts decode bipolar disorder

Apr 19, 2016, 08:25 IST | Dipanjan Sinha

Not just Honey Singh, a growing number of Mumbaikars are approaching psychiatrists with bipolar disorder signs. The good news, it's treatable

Crowded among other mental illnesses, the bipolar mood disorder that is treatable and yet lethal is often confused with either depression or simple mood swings. It is only recently, that people are approaching psychiatrists in larger numbers and getting treated for the same.

Also read: Suffering from bipolar disorder? Practice yoga

The Mumbai chapter of the World Bipolar Day on March 30 and singer Honey Singh’s declaration are an indicator of this change in mindset. In fact, declarations of many international stars like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brooke Shields and Winona Ryder about their fight with bipolar disorder has helped the common man come ahead and take help.

Depressed and bipolar disorder?
According to psychologist Seema Hingorrany there has been a steady growth in the number of patients who have approached her for help. "From three-four cases a month five years ago, I have nearly eight to ten patients a month now. It is an effect of people becoming more open about mental disorders," she says. She adds that often, patients approach her suspecting that they are depressed.

Catherine Zeta-Jones revealed in 2011 that she was undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder. Later, it was reported the she was cured before the expected period. Pic/Getty Images 

Being depressed is also a part of the disorder, explains psychiatrist Ashish Gambre, who was earlier associated with Sion’s Lokmanya Tilak hospital, and is now associated with SRV hospital in Goregaon. He came across over 30 patients with the condition in the previous year, which is an increase from previous years. "In bipolar mood disorder, the patient’s mind goes on a roller coaster ride. There are two phases — the manic phase, in which the patient is excessively active, there is euphoria, increased talkativeness, and then there is depression with thoughts of suicide and loss of appetite. This swing can occur immediately or over a prolonged period," he shares.

Also read: Facts about Bipolar Disorder

Singer Demi Lovato spoke out last year about coping with bipolar disorder. Pic/Getty images
Singer Demi Lovato spoke out last year about coping with bipolar disorder. Pic/Getty images

In both phases, the patient’s behaviour is risky and may lead to self-harm. A case in point was his patient who was working in Dubai. The 40-something banker was going through a phase of mania. He would go into fits of talking and would have severe arguments at work. Eventually, his employers asked him to go back to India. "The man was brought for treatment by his sister. And after six months of medication and counselling he is almost fine," Gambre says.

Don’t wait
He pointed out that unlike other psychological disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder is easily treatable. "Usually, it takes six months to a year to be treated and then the patient can stop medication. But the period of treating depends on the stage of the problem," he says, and adds that each time a bout of the disorder goes unattended, the duration of medication needed to treat the disorder increases.

"Therapy is also crucial," informs Hingorrany. She says that though bipolar disorder is genetic in nature it is often triggered by stress and in today’s fast-paced life stress is ubiquitous. She says that apart from the counselling sessions with a trained psychologist the patient is also trained in self-care protocol, which will ensure that they take their medicines on time. She, however, informs that the situation of mental health helplines in the city is not good. "Suicide helplines are very active but even the few mental condition helplines that were started are now practically defunct. I get a lot of emails and try to respond to as many of them as possible," she says.

Jean Claude Van Damme. Pic/ Getty Images
Jean Claude Van Damme. Pic/ Getty Images

Yo Yo Honey Singh. Pic/Shadab Khan
Yo Yo Honey Singh. Pic/Shadab Khan

They fought bipolar
>> Catherine Zeta-Jones, actor
>> Jean Claude Van Damme, actor
>> Demi Lovato, singer, songwriter  
>> Scott Stapp, singer, songwriter
>> Honey Singh, singer, songwriter
>> Carrie Fisher, actor

For the family
>> It is important for family members to take the patient to a psychiatrist at the earliest, when they spot symptoms.
>> Once discharged from the hospital, it falls upon the family to administer medicine regularly, and at the right time.
>> Through a period of constant care and counselling, the patient can get back to normal life. 

Seema Hingorrany
Seema Hingorrany

Ashish Gambre
Ashish Gambre

WHO says
According to the World Health Organisation, bipolar mood disorder affects over 60 million people worldwide. Effective treatments are available for the treatment of the acute phase of bipolar disorder and the prevention of relapse.

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