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  1. #1

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Most with bipolar disorder still able to work
    November 10, 2004
    CTV.ca News Staff

    Two-thirds of people who have bipolar disorder are able to hold a job despite the disruptive mood disorder, according to a new Canadian study.

    What appears to make a big difference between having a job or not is the availability of someone to help with the practical necessities of life, according to data from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-Being.

    An estimated 444,000 people aged 25 to 64 have experienced at least one manic episode suggestive of bipolar disorder. That's about three per cent of the population. More than half of them also suffered a major episode of depression.

    People with bipolar I disorder experience manic episodes, which usually feature an elevated mood or unusual euphoria. For example, an individual may start extensive conversations with strangers in public places, or make telephone calls at inappropriate times of night.

    Many then sink into the depths of depression. Volatility, alternating between euphoria and irritability, is also common.

    Bipolar I disorder can interfere with normal daily activities. People who are affected may experience frequent relapses, and may not return to full function between episodes.

    Considering the disruptive impact of the disorder, it is remarkable that 69 per cent of people aged 25 to 64 who had the disorder were employed. And yet, the study found that the likelihood of working was significantly greater for those with higher levels of tangible support.

    A support system was associated with the ability to work: The perceived availability of someone to help if an individual needed assistance with meal preparation, daily chores, or getting to appointments.

    But more than a quarter of people with bipolar I disorder reported that such help was available either infrequently or not at all.

    The first episode signalling bipolar disorder typically happens early in life. About 41 per cent of the people with lifetime bipolar disorder reported their first manic episode, or first major depressive episode in those who had experienced both, occurred before they were 17. The median age of onset was 19.

    A relatively large proportion of people with the disorder reported that they had sought professional help for their emotional or mental health, or for an alcohol or drug use problem. More than two-thirds had consulted a family doctor, a psychiatrist or psychologist.

    People with bipolar disorder were more likely than those without the condition to have additional mental and emotional problems. And the prevalence of chronic physical conditions was also strikingly high. For example, 15 per cent had asthma, almost double the figure for those without the disorder.

    Individuals with bipolar I disorder were also twice as likely to suffer from migraines, and were more likely to be obese.

  2. #2

    Re: Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter
    People with bipolar disorder were more likely than those without the condition to have additional mental and emotional problems. And the prevalence of chronic physical conditions was also strikingly high. For example, 15 per cent had asthma, almost double the figure for those without the disorder.
    Interesting. I have asthma and pretty severe allergies.

    Individuals with bipolar I disorder were also twice as likely to suffer from migraines, and were more likely to be obese.
    Migraine sufferer, too. Though I've always been accused of being too skinny. :-/

    Somehow I've managed to stay employed even through the rough times. I think that part of it was being lucky enough to have bosses who were understanding.

  3. #3

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Well, these words (of Dr. Baxter's) certainly ring true in my experience:

    "People with bipolar I disorder experience manic episodes, which usually feature an elevated mood or unusual euphoria. For example, an individual may start extensive conversations with strangers in public places, or make telephone calls at inappropriate times of night."

    Although I have not had a full-blown manic episode since the episode of February-April 2004 (the initial and single episode that I know of) I definitely experienced unusual ephoria and thought everything was great, when in reality things were falling apart. I frequently conducted extensive conversations with strangers in public places, seemingly driven to do so, and I often called my associates at all hours of the night, as I paid no attention to normal hours, but was usually awake.

    It amazes me that I am doing so much better nowadays, and that I simply have no desire to cross such boundaries. We still haven't figured out the right dosage of the correct medication, but it's generally held that I'm not having any kind of episode at this time. And my few clients figure I'm fine to do the work--my mental health condition does not figure as a subject in my day-to-day life.

    But I know I that I need to continue with treatment, otherwise if a manic episode were to recur, I'd be lost. I talked to my old psychiatrist, and she said that if a manic episode occurred again in the future, I wouldn't know it. After all, when it had occurred in the past, I didn't know it then.

  4. #4

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    That's symptomatic of a manic episode -- from the viewpoint of the individual experiencing it, everything is fine, so the insight required to recognize that actually something is significantly NOT right just isn't there.

  5. #5

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Yes, this is what I'm now coming to understand, largely because of a recent e-mail exchange with my old psychiatrist from the Bay Area. She tried to tell me at the time that I was having a manic episode, but I didn't believe her. My disbelief and distrust of that diagnosis was all part of the mania.

    Now I believe her, and she is counseling me to make sure that I have a solid support network of good friends who will let me know if something starts to happen again--because I myself will not know it. It's a little scary, but at the same time I have some faith, since after all, it had never happened before, and now I'm at least aware of the possibility that it could happen again.

    She did say I was "listening" now, and that I wasn't listening then--so that's good to know. I guess a lot of if is that I have to keep "listening."

  6. #6

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Yes. I remember a bipolar client who would start almost every session by saying, "I'm feeling fine now. Do you think I need to keep taking my medication?". I would say, "Yes, I think you do", and after that she'd be okay for another week or two.

  7. #7

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Well, I just got back from the clinic. After I told them how I had reacted to the 60mg geodin, she reduced it to 20mg, and also slowed the rate at which I'm going to increase, to 40mg, then 60mg. They also emphasized that I need to stick it out--some of the adverse side effects will be subdued after I take it for a week ago.

    Hopefully this will work. In any case, it feels right to me that I'm finally following through. I wouldn't want to have another episode, despite that I might be "feeling good."

  8. #8

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    I am really pleased to hear you taking such a sensible approach to managing this condition, stargazer. Well done!

  9. #9

    Most people with bipolar disorder still able to work

    Thanks, David.

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