AM Buffalo


Living with bipolar 1 disorder

Posted at 4:12 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 16:29:29-04

This Wednesday is World Bipolar Awareness Day. Over 3 million Americans experience this disorder and less than 50% receive treatment. Bipolar disorder can be disruptive and hard to navigate, but it can also be managed with a proper diagnosis.

Dr. Andrew J. Cutler, a renowned psychiatrist and the chief medical officer at Neuroscience Education Institute and Karen Lidral, a musician living with bipolar I disorder and an advocate for others came on AM Buffalo to talk about bipolar 1.

What is bipolar 1 disorder? Dr. Cutler says it is a common condition and affects over 3 million adults in the U.S. and is a genetic biological real brain disease if you will. It’s characterized by unpredictable high and low mood and energy changes, and he says we call these manic and depressive episodes and they can cause significant impairment and distress in people’s lives. He says it’s hard to diagnose actually, because the symptoms can look like other conditions.

Karen Lidral says she was 19 years old when she first started experiencing symptoms of bipolar 1 disorder. She says she was having trouble sleeping; I noticed problems with my memory along with changes in my mood, but I couldn’t see that these things might actually go together to be part of a bigger picture. She goes on to say over the years she knew something was wrong but wasn’t sure what it was and she didn’t receive a diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder until she was 34 years old.

The doctor says Karen’s story is not unique. He says on average it take ten years from the time the symptoms start to get an accurate diagnosis and it is often because of some of these challenges we are talking about; the fact that it can start relatively early in life, during teenage years or early adulthood years when there are a lot of other things going on, a lot of emotional swings and things like that. Dr. Cutler says it usually does go on recognized for years and that’s because the symptoms can look like other symptoms; people usually present when they are in the depressive episode and again those symptoms can look like other conditions and we don’t often recognize or report those manic symptoms and that’s why it’s so important to be really honest and open with your health care provider and report all of your symptoms and the impact it is having on your life.

Once Karen knew it was bipolar 1 disorder, she learned to prioritize her mental health. She says for me that looks like getting a good night’s sleep, getting exercise, minimizing stress, taking the medication my psychiatrist has prescribed. She says it is really something that can be manageable.

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