Mental illness and, in particular, bipolar disorder, can be difficult to diagnose since many other conditions have similar symptoms, but delaying a diagnosis can be dangerous and lead to suicide.
Today is National Bipolar Awareness Day, which shines the spotlight on a serious mental health problem affecting adolescents and adults.
Shouqat Mugjenker, Mental Health Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics says an estimated 3 to 4% (2 million) of South Africans suffer from bipolar disorder – a condition which is marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behaviour.
“Those that suffer from the condition say they experience extreme ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. The severity of these mood swings and the way they disrupt normal day-to-day activities distinguish bipolar episodes from ordinary mood changes we all experience from time to time.
“Symptoms of bipolar disorder – also described as manic depression – could include a sudden rush of physical and mental activity, racing speech and thoughts, increased sexual drive, reckless behaviour, heightened irritability and aggressive behaviour, while symptoms of depression could range from prolonged sadness, emotional outbursts, changes in appetite and sleep, loss of energy, chronic fatigue, anxiety, inability to concentrate and recurring thoughts of suicide, which can last for a few hours, days, weeks or even months,” he says.