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Janine Shamos, South African Depression and Anxiety Group
Despite the fact that more than one million South Africans have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it is still a misunderstood and often stigmatised chronic illness. To raise awareness about the disorder, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) has 'declared' 26 May as Bipolar Awareness Day in an effort to create greater awareness about the disorder.
Bipolar is a severe mood disorder— it not only causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels, but also the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, to have relationships or perform at work or at school. It can result in substance abuse issues, financial setbacks, even suicide. People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional
ii A long period of feeling 'high', or an overly happy or outgoing mood II Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling 'jumpy' or 'wired'. II Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts. II Being easily distracted. II Increasing goal-directed activities, like taking on new projects. II Being restless. II Sleeping little. II Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities. II Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, highrisk behaviours, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.
ii A long period of feeling worried or empty. II Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex. II Feeling tired or 'slowed down'. II Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. II Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits. II Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
states. These emotional swings usually occur in distinct, identifiable time frames, explained psychiatrist, Dr Frans Korb. From the overjoyed highs of a manic episode to the crushing lows of depression, people with bipolar swing between these two polar opposite moods. People may be explosive and irritable, sad or hopeless.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings Bipolar disorder is a chronic disorder and one that does often need lifetime management. Treatment is life-long — as is support, which is vital to a sufferer's longterm wellbeing and adjustment. Sadag receives hundreds of calls from patients and loved ones who are struggling to cope or understand a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. "There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but proper treatment helps most people with the disorder get control of their mood swings and their lives", said Dr Korb. Helping support not only the patient but also the loved ones is a critical part of getting and staying well. Bipolar can be very hard for loved ones to live with and they need as much support, understanding, and education as patients themselves. Through Sadag's dedicated Adcock Ingram Generics Bipolar Helpline (0800 70 80 90), website www.sadag.org and their information resources, people can be educated about the signs and symptoms of the illness, what help is available, and how to learn to care for yourself in the midst of a bipolar episode. "Educating patients and their families about bipolar is very important to ensure that people stick to their medications, treatments, ri GENERAL Tackling BIPOLAR CARE Mood disorder Symptoms of bipolar disorder Mania Depression Chronic disorder
and recognise symptoms of relapse", said Sadag's operations direction, Cassey Chambers. "Support and understanding can prevent a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering for all concerned.".
Bipolar is considered a medical, chronic illness. As such, treatment adherence is vital. A combination of medications may be confusing and patients may be unable to keep track of what to take and when. This can make even the most dedicated of patients give up and stop taking their medications. In addition, initial side-effects are often not discussed with the patient and they stop the medication before their body has a chance to adjust. Sadag encourages treatment adherence in simple ways: Colour coding pills, having a schedule of what to take and when, asking questions to find out about side-effects, and using a labelled weekly or daily medication reminder box to make sense of treatment regimes.
Education is critical and knowledge is indeed power; the more we know about bipolar, the more understandable the illness and its treatment become. To this end, Sadag will be hosting a number of talks during National Bipolar Awareness Day in areas across the country, including: Sandton, East Rand, Alberton, Parktown, Pretoria, Duban, Nelspruit, Witbank and Cape Town. For more information about these talks, or to find out how you can get involved, please visit Sadag website.
Bipolar disorder, left untreated may mean the sufferer may have more frequent and more severe episodes than they did initially, and delays in getting the correct diagnosis and treatment increases a person's risk of experiencing personal, social, and workrelated problems.
Bipolar Awareness Day 26 May