There is no person in the whole world who looks perfect. The same refers to the state of mind and for psychological state. This paper is aimed to analyze the issue of the bipolar disorder, taking the book by Kay Redfield Jamison An Unquiet Mind as an example. This book is the author’s memoir, so one may say it is a good example of the way the problems are introduced and besides, the author went through the methods of treatment, described in the book on her own.
Bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive disorder, is a disorder characterized by one’s suffering from swift changing of mood. In most cases it has the symptoms of depression. Different methods of treatment the bipolar disorder were created in the last decades. However, the point is that there is still no test to diagnose this disorder.
The author of the book experienced bipolar disorder on her own. She had symptoms since she was seventeen. At this age she suffered from insomnia, she had the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness as well as racing thoughts. Moreover, she was easily distracted and sometimes it occurred that she was thinking about committing suicide. Later, the author of the book experienced such symptoms as black depression, which she was trying to keep in secret. The illness was progressing and more symptoms appeared. The changes in her mood became more obvious. She experienced two periods in the progress of her illness: manic and hypomanic periods. During the manic period she was cheerful, had a lot of energy, she did not need either sleep or food, she experienced psychosis. When Kay Redfield Jamison had hypomanic period, she was more productive, was not so easily irritable and was active almost always. Sometimes it happened that she was in the so-called depressive period, when she experiences the feelings of guilt, anger, anxiety, fatigue, loss of interest, loss of appetite and sleeplessness.
When Kay Redfield was twenty six, she realized that something has to be done with her illness. First of all, she was prescribed to take lithium. During ten years, the dose of lithium, taken by Kay Redfield Jamison, was increasing. Besides, such treatment was not effective, as it had a lot of side effects:
“Edema, thirst, excessive urinary output; carbohydrate craving and weight gain; sluggishness; impaired coordination and decreased sex drive; and, finally, stoppered creativity all seem too easily accepted by clinicians who mistakenly advise their patients to, accept these impediments as ‘normal mood’ ... In this case, the failure to recognize lithium failure is based on a fear of and a bias against hypomania, which is the preferred mood of almost every functioning bipolar patient” (p. 243).
Besides lithium, there are several other ways of treatment which include taking pills. Patients are prescribed to take antidepressants, though it is not effective, because antidepressants do not eliminate the real cause, they just suppress bad mood. Antiseizure drugs and atypical antipsychotics are also strongly recommended for bipolar patients. Both of them are known for mood stabilizing effects. However, they are more often prescribed for those suffering from schizophrenia, and not for patients with bipolar disorder.
Later, she was advised to take Prozac, but it did not help either. Instead, the desire of committing suicide has risen. At that time, Kay Redfield Jamison realized that something has to be done so that the illness may be and has to be treated. She decided to use methods of Himmelhoch, a professor of psychiatry. He states that however difficult bipolar disorder is to be fully cured, it can be treated, enabling patients to have a normal life. Such treatment is aimed to reduce the quantity of changing phases (manic, hypomanic and depression phases), reduce the severity of these episodes, avoid cycling of the phases and help the patient to live between those phases a normal life. Thus, Kay Redfield Jamison had to change her life style. She was to change her eating habits, had to control her emotions and behavior. Besides, visiting psychotherapeutic and supporting groups was also important for her. There are several kinds of the so called “talk” therapies:
- Behavioral therapy, when a patient focuses his or her attention to the situations that bring the least stress;
- Cognitive therapy, when patients learn to modify their ways of thinking;
- Interpersonal therapy, when patients learn to communicate with each other and reduce their fear of the others;
- Social rhythm therapy, when patients learn to maintain household and other every day routine.
Support groups are also very helpful because there one learns to communicate not only with each other, but with those who are not ill, as friends and families are also allowed to visit such groups. Besides, patients become encouraged, they lose fear and shame before their illness. Patients should also have the education course, where they will be taught to cope with the illness. Such course will explain what the first symptoms are, how the illness may progress, and what types of treatment exist. Besides the methods mentioned above, a family or friends may also help the patient. First of all, they need to establish some routine: make a daily plan (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, having meal, going out should be done in the same time from day to day). Besides, family and friends should be used to think about their beloved one as about the patient and accept that they should also follow some daily routine. They need to adapt to live with a bipolar patient. In any case, it is good if the doctor not only checks the state of a patient or the illness progress, but gives the pieces of advice to the whole family and friends and helps them to get rid of fear. Another recommendation is to try to avoid drinking alcohol and taking drugs, mainly because they influence the mood and besides, the effect of using medicines and drinking alcohol may be opposite to what is expected.
Until she was cured, Kay Redfield Jamison was working and at her work place nobody knew about her disorder. On the other hand, everybody noticed her strange, swiftly changing mood. In this situation specialists say that it is a person’s choice whether to tell about the disorder or not, because there are some superstitions, more like stigmas, around mental illnesses and those who have them. Kay Redfield Jamison became a scientist and was lecturing in the university. As one may see, this job was not fitting her way of life well because one of the methods of treatment is routine. As far as she had lectures at different time, she was not working strictly from nine till six. It means something like a challenge to those who have bipolar disorder.
On the other hand, all patients with bipolar disorder have different symptoms and the way they show up. That is why the methods of treatment should also be individualized. One may say that there can be strict recommendations for treatment of such patients. There can be only tips and guidelines for doctors. As it is shown in a book, it is possible not only to live with such a disorder, but to become healthy again, to have an active life. Kay Redfield Jamison was ill since she was seventeen, and at the age of forty-five she was able to start a new life without any disorder. This book is a good read not only for those who study medicine, but also for ordinary people because it shows that everything is possible if one strives for life and works hard.