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Black Men and Bipolar
People living with bipolar disorder go back and forth between periods of being very good or irritable and depression. These “mood swings” between mania and depression can be very quick and if left unchecked can result in self-destructive behaviors, including suicide.
It’s important to note that African American men are not at higher risk for the disorder because of race but are at higher risk of it not being properly diagnosed due to barriers to care and competing health priorities. This is why brothers and those that love them, need to know the signs and symptoms.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown but affects men and women equally. But there’s evidence that it can run in families.
Types of bipolar disorder:
- Individuals living with bipolar disorder type I have had at least one manic episode and periods of major depression, formerly referred to as manic depression.
- Bipolar disorder type II involves those who experience periods of high energy levels and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as mania (e.g. hypomania).
- Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar with less severe mood swings.
The best way to diagnose bipolar or manic depression is to see a reputable clinician, avoid self-diagnosis. And loved ones should be aware that substance use, sleeplessness, and major life changes to name a few are “triggers” for people with bipolar disorder. The “manic phase” for those living with the condition can last a few days to months, symptoms can include being easily distracted, having little need for sleep, poor judgment, poor temper control, and reckless behavior and lack of self control. In addition someone in a “manic phase” may have bursts of increased energy, scattered thoughts, and hyperactivity in general.
There is a high risk of suicide with bipolar disorder. Patients may abuse alcohol or other substances, which can make the symptoms and suicide risk worse. Some famous brothers with a history of bipolar disorder include rapper DMX and country singing legend, Charley Pride. It’s an equal opportunity and treatable condition.
Contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression for additional information and resources on bipolar disorder.