Last week, when someone tweeted to Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, about how amazing his life looks on Instagram and they wonder whether the ups and downs he’s had make for a more enjoyable life, Musk replied by tweeting, “The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two.”
That’s when someone asked if he is bipolar, and he replied with a blatant ‘yeah’. Apart from Musk, who claims that you can’t buy a ticket to hell and then blame hell for it, other celebrities have also come out to speak about their struggle with the condition.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is testing new waters by launching a lifestyle brand of her own, was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder in 2011. But looking at the silver lining, she said in an interview with a British magazine that finding out that there was a term for the way she felt, for her emotions, and that she could go to a professional to seek help was the best thing that happened to her.
Credited for bringing Punjabi rap into Bollywood music, Honey Singh also came out about his bipolar disorder last year. After being away for 18 months, he wanted to tell his fans what he was going through all that while. In an interview with a national newspaper, he revealed that he was in his house in Noida, he changed four doctors, who changed his course of medication, but all in vain. He shared how as an artist, having performed to audiences of thousands, he was scared of facing 4-5 people, and that’s what his bipolar disorder had done to him. The hip-hoper came back with a movie and a hit song in it, but has been off the scene since then again.
Recently, Demi Lovato too spoke about her bipolar disorder through a podcast. Putting it as aptly as she could, she pointed out that it is something she has, not who she is.
What is bipolar disorder?
Dr Prajakta Deshpande, a city-based clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, explains that bipolar is a mood disorder. “As the term suggests, the mood of the person who is bipolar exists on two extremes — one is a very low mood which comes with depression, and the extreme is mania, which is highly accelerated mood. Then again, there is mania and hypomania. When a person is in the hypomania phase, the behaviourial aspect may not be seen. They might have racing of thought, increased appetite and less need to sleep. When a person is in the mania phase, you can see excited behaviour — they won’t rest or sleep,” she says.
She reveals that she has had patients suffering from this disorder who haven’t slept or eaten any food, but just worked for three-four days at a stretch. “A lot of work gets completed when a bipolar person is in the mania or hypomania phase. You feel like you can do anything, you’re invincible and can conquer the world. But when it ends, it’s like a crash down and a fast swig to the other side, which is the low mood and depression,” she says.
Are depression and bipolar disorder linked? Yes, she says and explains that depression is a unipolar disorder, where a person is persistently in a depressed mood and fails to take interest in anything, and bipolar disorder involves sudden shifts in the mood which pendulums from being depressed to extreme mania.
“The mania phase does not last for a long time, but depression is a longstanding state of mind. Hypomania or mania may come and go in phases, which may last from a day to a week. People have a lot of impulsiveness, they do not have the ability to think before doing something,” says Deshpande, giving the example of indulging in a shopping spree, preparing food in large quantities, talking incessantly, or getting gregarious.
This disorder, like any other mental disorder, has consequences on one’s physical health too. “If a person suffering from bipolar disorder does not get proper treatment, it can lead to physical problems. It can affect one’s circulatory system, causing blood pressure issues and heart problems,” she says.
Diabetes and weight gain might also be consequences of undetected and untreated bipolar disorder. “Since people suffering from the disorder cannot think clearly, it is up to the caregivers to look after their security, safety and well being. Seeking psychiatric help and starting medication is mandatory, and once they are settled with the medicines, psychotherapy to identify triggers and deal with them, can be done,” says Deshpande.