It is estimated that, in Quebec, 1.2% of men and 1.8% of women are affected by a type of bipolar disorder.
In our service sector, this amounts to around 6,000 people.
Mood changes are a normal part of life for everyone. Our mood be affected by a number of situational factors (emotional loss, change in season, money, a promotion or demotion, etc.), and it is entirely natural for our mood to vary from one day, season or year to the next.
For the average person, such variations are proportional to the situation at hand, and they level out in due time. For someone with bipolar disorder, mood changes are not proportional to the situation causing them. They become so intense that the individual does not even realize that they are overreacting and letting their anger get the best of them. Similarly, their depression can be so overwhelming that it can lead to suicidal thoughts.
When diagnosing this disorder, it is important to disregard the individual’s current state of being at the time of the consultation. Rather, the analyst must look at the long-term behaviour of the individual and take into consideration any genetic factors that may contribute (whether siblings or ascendants may have experienced similar phenomena, for example).
This disorder consists of two phases: the manic and the depressive.
- The manic phase (the highs): The individual is overly confident in themselves and in their projects, and their excitement is so great that they can forget to eat or sleep. They tend to be hyperactive, and their thoughts tend to race.
- The depressive phase (the lows): The individual has trouble concentrating, has chronic fatigue and undergoes significant weight loss. Any activity seems excruciating to them, and they generally lose their taste for life.
In both cases, the person experiences some incredibly difficult moments. But we must remember that in between these extremes, there is also a “normal” phase in which the individual is able to function at a relatively stable level.
When it comes to bipolar disorder, scientific research primarily points to biological causes. Risk is higher in families who have a history of similar behaviour, and heredity plays a part in the onset of the disorder.
For individuals who are predisposed to developing bipolar disorder, certain stress factors can act as a trigger.
Bipolar disorder is generally treated through a combination of psychological consultations and medication that reduces symptoms. The consultations aim to support the individual by helping them understand and accept their situation, while the medication tries to stabilize the individual’s mood chemically. Periodic blood tests are often recommended so ensure that medication is properly dosed.
In general, people undergoing proper treatment can resume their normal professional, family and social activities.
If bipolar disorder goes untreated, however, excessive behaviour can give rise to problems with friends and family, finances and, at times, the law. Such situations can be as difficult to handle for the individual’s loved ones as for the individual themselves, which is why it’s so important to get help.