When the language of certain mental disorders becomes commonly used in popular culture, this can produce confusion and result in the improper labeling of individuals and symptoms. This is unfortunate because it stigmatizes these individuals and can lead to a misrepresentation of a real condition. This is often the case with Bipolar Disorder. This is indeed a mood disorder. But Bipolar Disorder does not simply mean that people’s moods go from happy to angry, or even just happy to sad, in a short period of time, as many popular uses of the term suggest. In this brief article, I provide a clearer understanding of Bipolar Disorder and I also outline a Christian counselor’s approach to treating the disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Involves a Manic Episode
While an accurate breakdown of Bipolar Disorder would involve differentiating between Bipolar I and II, the most important thing to look out for is the presence of a manic episode. Mania is the defining feature of Bipolar Disorder and needs to be accurately understood. It involves an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood. This distinct mood must last at least a week or else it must involve hospitalization.
Some examples of symptoms experienced during these manic episodes include an inflated self-esteem, a decreased need for sleep, being more talkative than usual, experiencing racing thoughts, an increase in goal-directed activity, distractibility, and an excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that may be dangerous or have painful consequences. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or in someone you love, you should not hesitate to contact your doctor or talk to a Christian counselor as soon as you can.
Mood Instability Can Result in a Devastating Loss of Energy
Having studied these symptoms of mania, you may note that they can also be used positively when they are present to a lesser degree. In such cases, they can actually be used to benefit a person’s productivity. However, even if someone is able to keep these symptoms relatively in check and thus avoid the problems they cause, the reality is that manic episodes or symptoms cannot go on indefinitely. When the change in mood does happen, it often happens very dramatically and can result in severe depressive episodes. Such episodes can be especially devastating to people who had previously had abundant energy.
Finding themselves in such a situation can lead people to seek out Christian counseling. Often the Christian who experiences Bipolar Disorder may question what God is doing in their life. When a person who has been productive in the past, and able to use their extra energy to accomplish their goals, finds that their mood instability limits them, there is often a grieving process that must occur. This is especially important because, while Bipolar Disorder is certainly treatable, it is a lifelong disorder that the individual will need to learn to manage.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Deal with Bipolar Disorder
My personal approach to working with Bipolar Disorder is rooted in my approach to Christian counseling in general. My first goal is to align myself with my client and to develop the trust that will become the foundation for the work that needs to be done. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder are especially vulnerable to the same kinds of issues that can cause mood instability for everyone. My clients with Bipolar Disorder need to understand the importance of stability and consistency in their lives. I often provide my clients with mood charts or other daily recording methods. These help them to establish base lines and to develop routine and structure in their lives. Once a routine is in place, it is easier to predict when mood fluctuations will occur and to understand these fluctuations.
As a Christian counselor, my goal is to help my clients get to the point where they understand themselves and their mood fluctuations in a way that allows them to continue pursuing their dreams and living out the life that God has called them to. This can be a challenging process, but the rewards are a renewed sense of well-being and stability that will carry over into other aspects of life.
The images are from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
- “Man of Concern”, courtesy of Lisa Brewster, CreativeCommon, (CC BY-SA 2.0)
- “Faith and Believe” by ThePathTraveler, Photo ID #10079871,