Regardless of outside circumstances, being a parent can be difficult, but when you do factor in those outside circumstances, things can be even more tricky. These outside circumstances can include an unexpected mental health diagnosis. For around three million Americans each year, this diagnosis is often a type of Bipolar Disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder can be broken down into four different types: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder, and Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders. The main difference between all of these types is how long one spends in an “up” or manic state and how long one spends in a “down” or depressive state.
Manic states can be characterized by having more energy than normal, increased activity, and risk-taking behavior. Depressive states are often the opposite of this, characterized by having little energy or activity levels, not eating a lot, and feeling like normal activities are not enjoyable. Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Suzanne Jones, says, “The difference between mania and hypomania is a matter of degrees. With Bipolar II, the symptoms are less severe and don’t significantly affect the person’s work, school, or social functioning.”
The treatment plan for any type of Bipolar Disorder is complicated. “Medications alone are not enough. Lifestyle adjustments will be needed. Bipolar Disorder is a complex condition that affects not only the person with the diagnosis, but also the family. Psychotherapy is important for both patients and their families,” says Jones. Essentially, treating Bipolar Disorder is less of being prescribed a medication, and more a mixture of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
However, helping your children to understand is crucial. “When the children are old enough to understand, and parents are in a calm, stable place, give simple explanations about what a complex biological disorder is. They need to know your extreme moods are not a reflection on them. If you have been hurtful, apologize.” Essentially, don’t hide things from your kiddos, and try to explain the hard things to them. That fact, coupled with a support network, will make living with Bipolar Disorder a little easier.