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Today is bipolar awareness day! Here's what you need to know about this growing mental health dilemma

by , 26 May 2015

Over four million South Africans suffer from bipolar disorder.

A disease that society stigmatises as “crazy”, “unstable” and “dangerous”.

With labels like these, it isn't surprising that 40% of people with bipolar take up to two years to receive treatment, 68% discontinue their treatment, and 75% feel they can handle the problem on their own, according to local research.

But today's Bipolar Awareness Day. A day that you can embrace the beauty of those who suffer with bipolar.

To celebrate this day, it's time you learn a bit about people with this disorder… Who know, you could be suffering from it too!

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is an illness that causes severe mood swings, from manic highs to deep depressions. 
It’s a chronic illness that can flare up from time to time causing your colleagues, friends and loved ones to misunderstand you. They might think you’re seeking attention, when you’re actually not. This is why understanding the disorder is important.
It’s an illness that requires support and treatment – something many South Africans sadly lack. 
But here’s the good news: 

Bipolar is a treatable disorder

That’s right – bipolar is 100% treatable. But avoiding treatment can increase the patient’s risk of suicide. 
The key is not to ignore how you’re feeling. 
Being bipolar is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness, and there are very effective treatments available.
Is it just a bad memory? Or the early signs of Alzheimer's disease?
You know what it’s like to forget a name, misplace your keys, or lose your train of thought. It happens to everyone every so often.

Facts you must know about bipolar disorder

Here are some interesting facts on bipolar disorder that you might’ve not known about…
• Bipolar disorder affects up to 3- 4% of the population in South Africa.
• Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.
• Bipolar disorder isn’t restricted to any social or education class, race, or nationality.
• Bipolar disorder used to be called Manic-Depressive illness.
• Bipolar disorder is a physical illness marked by extreme changes in mood, energy, thinking and behaviour.
• Bipolar Disorder often disrupts work, school, family, and social life.
• Men and women are equally affected; however men tend to have more manic episodes while women experience more depressive episodes.
• Famous people in the past, like Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Vincent Van Gogh and others were all bipolar sufferers.
• Bipolar disorder is a combination of biochemical, genetic and psychological factors.
• Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can continue throughout life.
• Bipolar disorder can also affect children; however diagnosis is difficult as many symptoms mimic emotions and other behaviours such as ADHD.
• Bipolar disorder in children significantly impairs functioning in school and at home with the family.

Need help with your bipolar? Look no further

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) has launched a toll-free (0800 70 80 90) as well as linked SMS service (32312) to enable callers, even from isolated and rural areas, to call SADAG for information, advice and counselling.
The line is open weekdays from 8am to 8pm.
If you have any questions on the disorder at all, they’d love to provide you with the answers you need.
Whether you’re bipolar or not, it’s important you’re educated on this disorder. I hope what you’ve just read has helped!

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