Bipolar, also known as manic depression, manifests in a variety of ways, but ultimately involves cyclic swings in mood and behavior of an extreme nature. A person with bipolar must learn to live with periods of severe depression in which he or she experiences debilitating lethargy and overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness, followed by periods of intensely exhilarating or—in some cases—highly destructive energy known as mania.
Full-blown manic episodes typically involve rapid thought and/or speech patterns; insomnia; delusions of grandiosity; compulsive behaviors such as overspending, sexual promiscuity, and substance abuse; and, in severe cases, violent outbursts and psychosis. Manic episodes may also trigger productivity, particularly with regard to creative and artistic pursuits.
Bipolar is currently divided into bipolar I and II diagnoses, with bipolar I characterized by severe bouts of mania, while bipolar II is characterized by intermittent episodes of hypomania, a milder—though still chaotic and disorienting—form of mania. Waves of depression and mania associated with both types of bipolar may occur in long, drawn-out spells or in shorter time frames, or swings from one to the other emotional state may occur several times within a day. When this occurs, it is referred to as rapid cycling. Still others may house manic and depressive symptoms at the same time in any given moment, known as a mixed state.
According to the United Kingdom-based Equilibrium foundation for bipolar, approximately 254 million people are affected by bipolar worldwide. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that bipolar typically begins to develop in late adolescence or early adulthood, with at least half of all cases showing signs and symptoms before age 25. Many individuals diagnosed with bipolar are able to reclaim their well-being though therapy, education, coping strategies, and support.
To assist people in understanding bipolar, we selected the 10 best online resources of 2013—GoodTherapy.org excluded—for this complex mental health condition. Among the criteria we considered in making our selections are quality and depth of content, presentation, and functionality.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): Based in Chicago, DBSA provides educational resources and support for those diagnosed with depression, bipolar, and anxiety, as well as people who wish to learn more about mood issues. The site offers informational brochures, podcasts, and training materials; the latest in treatment options and research; guidance on offering peer support to loved ones; and a search tool for online and in-person support groups nationwide. It will soon offer a resources section for clinicians.
- International Bipolar Foundation (IBF): This nonprofit organization, based in San Diego, is determined to eradicate stigma surrounding bipolar through public education, to promote and improve support services, and, ultimately, to eliminate the existence of bipolar by way of advancements in research. In addition to educational resources, current research, and international news pertaining to bipolar, the IBF hosts webinars on a variety of bipolar-related topics.
- Bipolar Support: When you first land on this site, you may be overwhelmed by their deep blue-purple background and basic design and layout, but the resources here are plentiful. Several links to information on bipolar in all its various forms, downloadable tools and presentations, forums and chat groups, bipolar-related articles and surveys, additional bipolar websites and resources, a bipolar encyclopedia, and even a bipolar bookstore can be accessed via this comprehensive online collection.
- The Balanced Mind Foundation: This not-for-profit organization strives to provide families raising children and teenagers who have been diagnosed with mood issues with the information, guidance, and support they need to thrive. Based in Chicago, this network of concerned citizens offers educational resources, online support groups, chats, forums, blog articles, and videos to help those seeking a sense of community as well as a deeper understanding of bipolar in children and adolescents.
- Equilibrium—The Bipolar Foundation: Based in Oxford, England, this international organization is a collective effort to further the understanding and treatment of bipolar, as well as to remove stigma and prejudice that often accompany a bipolar diagnosis. The Equilibrium network includes people living with bipolar, their families and loved ones, clinicians and health professionals, research partners, and advocacy groups across the globe, and the site provides educational and research-based news and resources pertaining to bipolar, as well as a wide range of support.
- Bipolar Child Support: As the name suggests, this special education advocacy website is devoted to support and guidance for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of bipolar in children and teenagers. The site also provides parents, caregivers, educators, and teachers with access to free and appropriate public education (FAPE) resources on bipolar and how it manifests in children, as well as how to handle the unique educational needs of a child or teen diagnosed with bipolar. Among the many resources are interactive tools and activities for working with children and a running feed of bipolar “hot topics.”
- Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC): This not-for-profit, consumer-driven, and voluntary health charity is committed to advocacy and giving a strong, national voice to people with mood issues and their caregivers and loved ones. The site’s numerous resources include basic information on depression and bipolar, discussion forums, up-to-date research, and news feeds. Downloadable posters for MDSC’s “Elephant in the Room” anti-stigma campaign, which seeks to erase stigma surrounding mental illness in the classroom and workplace, also are available.
- bp Magazine’s bphope blog: This digital and print magazine’s website provides information on bipolar, a discussion forum, excerpts from “in this issue” articles, and a blog, all geared toward offering “hope and harmony for people with bipolar.” The bphope blog publishes posts covering a vast array of topics related to bipolar and other mood issues, the bulk of which are insider perspectives on coping with the day-to-day challenges of living with a mental health condition.
- Parents Med Guide: Developed by the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the medication guides on this site were created for parents of children and adolescents diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity, depression, and bipolar. The downloadable Parents’ Medication Guide for Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents includes basic information on bipolar, available medication options, types of psychosocial therapy, current research, and national resources, along with other educational insights.
- Bipolar Caregivers: This informative site is designed specifically for the caregivers of those who are living with bipolar and over the age of 18. It offers basic information as well as a number of resources and suggestions on how to successfully care for and assist people with bipolar. An added perk is the section devoted to the well-being of the caregiver, which includes advice on how to keep healthy, maintain boundaries, and cope with the personal impact of being in the caregiver role.
Want to see another website in our Top 10 list? Let us know here.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml
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