Sunita, 28, generally good with friends and also at office work, had problems at home ever since she got married five years ago, which Rahul, her husband, tried to hide desperately from their relatives and friends. She had been good at studies and also at some hobbies like singing but had difficulties at home even as a college student as she would get into quarrels with her parents which, at times, became violent. The quarrels often followed her getting into angry silences for days, lying down brooding for hours, refusing to eat etc. Her parents took all these as anger tantrums, because a few days later, she would get back to her loving, caring and energetic self. Parents mostly felt that these were the usual problems of a pampered girl and believed that they will go away as she matures and settles down in her matrimonial home.

After marriage, some days passed nicely but Sunita’s tantrums surfaced soon after, this time with Rahul. At peaceful times, she would tell Rahul about her turbulent childhood in which she used to get scolded and beaten by her mother, the reasons for which she couldn’t often comprehend, though her mother had been very loving to her at other times. She said that her dad could not do much about the fluctuating moods and behaviour of her mother and hence could not help in correcting her own plight.

When the situation became unbearable at home, Rahul confided about it into an office friend who advised him to seek professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologist. It wasn’t easy for Rahul to convince Sunita to visit a mental health professional as not only she, but her parents and many people around both Sunita and Rahul also advised him against it. “She is not mad, - then why to take her to a mental doctor”- said some of them. Yet some others suggested them to visit some babas, religious places, astrologers etc. as they felt that their marriage was going through the rough weather because of some evil reasons. Many of them felt that one cannot clap with just one hand and Rahul was equally a culprit in mishandling the feelings of an “emotional and sensitive” Sunita.

At the mental health professional’s clinic, an assessment of the situation was made and Sunita and Rahul heard from him of “Bipolar Disorder” for the first time in their life. Medical treatment by a psychiatrist and psychotherapy by a counselling psychologist followed and the condition of Sunita came much under control which further resulted into better home environment for both of them. She continues with her treatment, with Rahul ensuring that she does not miss medicines and counselling.

Bipolar Disorder was formerly known as Manic Depression. It is a mental disorder characterised by episodes of depression with symptoms like sadness, negativity, lack of interest, aloofness, a feeling of gloom, despair, hopelessness, anxiety, guilt, extreme tiredness, irritability etc. and mania or elevated mood with high energy, rash decision-making, a sense of being powerful etc. It is believed that this disorder is caused both by genetic reasons and by factors of early childhood living environment in which one grows up with abuses and emotional stress from at least one parent or parent figure with behaviour symptomatic of bipolar disorder in him / her. With this kind of parental situation being prevalent, many psychologists believe that the illness gets passed from one generation to the other.

Bipolar disorder is usually treated with medicines (mood stabilisers and antidepressants) and psychotherapy by counselling psychologists. At times the condition of the patient can become unmanageable with situations like attempted suicide, threats of suicide, extreme violence, extreme depression etc. which may even warrant hospitalisation. It is believed that about 2 to 3 % of population are either affected by this mental disorder or have a potential to get affected by it.

Bipolar disorder is difficult to cure and may need lifelong medication to manage it. The cycle of high energy mania to deep depression can be for a few days, weeks or months. It is a serious mental illness that has the potential to destroy relationships, retard career prospects and affect academic performance. Suicidal tendency too is quite common. Bipolar disorder happens to be yet another home wrecker as its effects damage close relationships like in marriage and in family. It is well-known that dealing with mental health problems is an arduous task in countries like India.  This, coupled with the fact that bipolar disorder is a severe condition, makes the situation all the more difficult for the care-givers to handle. Under these circumstances, the only possible long term solution for helping people suffering from bipolar disorder and those affected by the close presence of one in their life seems to be improving general awareness level on mental health among common people. Till then, most of us would live with the belief that “one can’t clap with one hand”, and pass the problem as domestic discord.