Jennifer Scott knows how difficult it can be to live with anxiety and depression. She has experienced both since she was in her teens. Today, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.
Bipolar disorder affects millions of people in the world., but many sufferers go un-diagnosed because of their age or because they have another mood or developmental disorder which masks it. It is especially difficult to diagnose in children, because young people who have not reached maturity don’t show the distinct emotional cycle that adults who have been diagnosed with the disorder do. This cycle can range from mania to anxiety to depression and can include bouts of rage or violence.
Much has been studied regarding the link between bipolar disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, which have very similar symptoms (one can also be diagnosed with both). Those diagnosed with Asperger’s/ASD generally have problems with processing stimuli in social settings and can become obsessed with a particular topic, which they may be vocal about despite issues with language. People suffering from bipolar disorder may also become obsessed with a singular passion--such as art or music--but will often close themselves off from other people while they work on it. They will enter what is called a hypomania phase, which gives them a positive, energetic feeling while they are being creative. The difficult part is when that feeling begins to fade, and they are left with doubts about themselves and their passion. This can in turn lead to depression or violent episodes.
Because it’s so difficult to determine whether a young person has bipolar disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome, many doctors find that they have to closely monitor the child’s behavior for a year or more in order to watch for signs of emotion cycles. If the child becomes highly distracted, has trouble with speech or controlling emotions, becomes violent or engages in self-harm, more often than not bipolar disorder is diagnosed. However, everyday anxiety must be ruled out first.
Another concern is that, if the individual is aggressive or violent, those behaviors need to be addressed with medication before any therapy can begin.
"In coming years we are likely to develop better ways to define the mood problems of children. Nonetheless, childhood bipolar disorder is a real and serious illness that should be recognized and treated as early as possible," says Dr. Michael Miller, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter
It is estimated that about one-third of people who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder are also battling substance abuse. Because these things fuel one another, it can be difficult to sort out emotions and what triggers them, making disorders hard to treat. Those who are living with bipolar disorder or Asperger’s tend to have trouble in social settings, so they use drugs or alcohol to help ease their anxiety. Unfortunately, people with these disorders are more at risk for becoming addicted.
For bipolar disorder, the most recommended treatment is a combination of medication, individual counselling, and group therapy.