Maybe you've wondered if bipolar disorder ever goes away. Maybe you've asked, "Will I ever get well?" Maybe you've even read conflicting answers, so you're wondering what the truth is.
Well, the truth is, bipolar disorder doesn't go away. Between depressive and manic or hypomanic episodes you may experience a "normal" mood state, called euthymia, and feel stable. That state may go on with minimal fluctuations for some time, especially with good treatment and support.
Some people call this "remission," but there's a lot of dispute about that term. Researchers McIntire, Soczynska and Konarski, writing in Psychiatric Times, say that because there are aspects of bipolar disorder not associated with specific moods that can continue between episodes, there's no such thing as true remission.
What this means is that if a person is not depressed, manic or hypomanic, he or she may still have some of the difficulties in daily functioning that are part of bipolar disorder, such as difficulty concentrating; may still have symptoms of anxiety disorders that are so common in people who have bipolar; may still have physical symptoms that are connected to bipolar such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
It's important, too, to understand that even if your bipolar symptoms aren't present, they are lurking. Even if you're "feeling normal," maintaining the treatment that has gotten you to that point remains essential. Patients who say, "I'm feeling good so I don't need medication anymore" are making a terrible mistake. Someone who has been exercising to fight depression is inviting a relapse by stopping once the depression lifts.
So - the most obvious symptoms may go away - for awhile. You may stay in an even mood for some time. But bipolar disorder doesn't disappear.
That doesn't mean you can't have what you want. It does mean you have to participate in your own treatment in order to have a good chance at the best quality of life for yourself, to achieve your goals, to enjoy your days.
Do you have periods of stability that last a long time? What do you do to help yourself stay stable? Tell us in Comments.
McIntyre, R. S., Soczynska, J.K., and Konarski, J. (2006, October 01). Bipolar disorder: Defining remission and selecting treatment Psychiatric Times, 23(11).