Bipolar affective disorder is a mental illness which predominantly affects your mood and emotions. Nadja Stehlin, deputy chairperson and representative of affected people for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Bipolare Störungen (DGBS), explains that: „Bipolar refers to the two poles, depression and mania, between which the affected person […] alternates, while experiencing various symptoms“.
These symptoms are also different for each person: sometimes „the mania is less extreme, manifesting as what is called ‚hypomania‘ “, or one might experience „less severe depressive episodes“.
It is estimated that between 1.5 and 3 % of the German population are affected by this illness. It can be caused, among other things, by genetic predisposition and/or neurobiological factors combined with psychosocial experiences of stress.
Isolation from Social Contacts
In any case, the pandemic and the restrictions associated with it can have negative effects on people with bipolar disorder. In particular, the isolation caused by the need to reduce social contacts is very difficult, according to Stehlin.
Even before the corona pandemic, people with bipolar affective disorder were affected by isolation, for example, „through the sometimes severe nature of their illness“, they might already only have very „few social contacts“.
Additionally, „strong prejudices […] concerning people with bipolar affective disorder“ can lead to affected people „isolating themselves socially and being unable to deal with their problems openly“. As a result, additional restrictions like social distancing can significantly worsen this situation.
On the other hand, it is also possible that more time spent at home with relatives can „lead to more conflict“.
Stehlin fears that these difficulties could have dramatic consequences, particularly if therapists are difficult to contact. What is especially problematic, is the situation of affected people who experience negative feelings and thoughts, but are unable to speak directly to anybody else about them.
No Exceptions to Lockdown Rules for People with Depression
According to the current jurisdiction of the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, depression does not qualify as a reason not to follow social distancing measures currently in place during the pandemic.
Further Information on Bipolar Disorder
With the right support, including for example therapy or medication, people suffering from bipolar affective disorder can still lead a full life.
For more information on bipolar disorder please visit the following websites:
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Bipolare Störungen (German)
- International Bipolar Foundation (English, US)
- Mind (English, UK)
„In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.“ – Albert Camus
This subject (bipolar disorder as well as depression) was also picked up by other media, and affected people spoke about their experiences with the illness (during the pandemic):
- Businessinsider: Anna is manic-depressive: Her case shows what people with mental illnesses are contending with during times of corona.
- MOZ: Man from Brandenburg with bipolar disorder recounts his shaky recovery
- Südkurier: Euphoric today, depressed tomorrow: How to manage bipolar disorder
- NDR: More depression due to corona
- ZDF: Corona crisis worsens cases of depression
Tips and advice on how to manage depression during the pandemic can be found on the website of the German Foundation for Depression Relief (Stiftung Deutsche Depressionshilfe):