Today is World Bipolar Day.
Each year, organisations around the world use this day to raise awareness, educate and reduce stigma around the condition. It is estimated that around 1-3% of the population live with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a condition characterised by ‘low’ and ‘high’ episodes of both depression and mania/hypomania - which may include symptoms of elevated mood, irritability, high energy, and possible psychosis. The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it is postulated to be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Environmental risk factors may include chronic stress, childhood abuse and grief or trauma. Typically, symptoms of bipolar disorder will present during the teenage or early adult years, but it is possible (though rarer) for it to develop later in life. There are several subtypes of bipolar disorder, and these vary depending on the combination and severity of manic/hypomanic and depressive periods experienced.
Bipolar disorder is typically a lifelong, recurring condition, but there are a number of treatment options available to reduce the severity of symptoms. These include pharmacotherapy (i.e., medications), psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive or dialectical behavioral therapy), support groups, and lifestyle modifications.
The prevalence of bipolar disorder in grad school is not well researched, but it is estimated that around 3.2% of university students have the condition. While it may present extra challenges, individuals with bipolar disorder can thrive in grad school and beyond.. We have had countless stories from members of the PhD Balance community sharing their experiences of having bipolar disorder in grad school (both the good and the bad).
Your university should be able to provide some of the support you may require -- talk with the student disability office or student psychological services for more information. Additionally, there are a number of university scholarships available to students with bipolar disorder, so be sure to check these out!
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