For people living with bipolar affective disorder, the current pandemic can present many difficulties.
For people living with bipolar affec­tive disor­der, the current pande­mic can present many difficulties.

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:

„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):

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):

Source: DGBS, NHS