Bipolar illness is a disease that millions of Americans suffer in varying degrees. One of the things that many of them have in common is the effect that mania can have on their decision making.
The common theme in the lives of people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disease is the dizzying shift from depression to mania and back to depression again. While in the depression stage, those affected can get so far emotionally down on themselves that they may seriously consider, or even attempt, suicide. Conversely, when they are in the mania stage, they may feel so invulnerable and upbeat that they feel that they can do no wrong. And it is this sort of supernatural confidence that gets many of them into trouble.
The prefrontal lobe is the portion of the brain that is primarily responsible for cognitive behavior and decision making. When we are born, of course, this part of the brain is not fully developed. In fact, in the average person, it doesn't really begin to develop until sometimes in their adolescence. This, in part, helps to explain some of the erratic and unfathomable decision making on the part of children. Without a fully functioning prefrontal lobe, we cannot visualize the future impact of our actions.
In a person with bipolar, if they are in their depression phase, this part of the brain is functioning OK. However, if they are in the midst of a severe mania phase, it is as though someone shut off their prefrontal lobe with a switch. In other words, they really cannot accurately evaluate the future consequence of their actions.
This is the state of mind that could lead someone to, in a spur of the moment decision, cash in the thousands of dollars in their 401k plan to spend on a half thought out multi-level marketing plan. Or, it might lead someone to suddenly quit their accounting job and fly out to the west coast to fulfill their long held dreams of being an actor.
Being in this state of mind is like having no control switch in your brain to stop you from making impulsive decisions that could end up hurting you and your family.
So, if you have bipolar, is there any way to avoid following through on a questionable mode of action when in your mania phase?
Fortunately there is. It starts with fully realizing that you are susceptible to these kinds of emotions when experiencing mania. It also helps to learn to consciously identify when you are in the midst of a mania episode. And, lastly, let your friends and family know of the symptoms so that they can help you to put on the brakes when they recognize these symptoms in you.
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