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Baron Geisler and Bipolarism

There was something disturbing about the sight of entertainment personality Baron Geisler pleading with a news crew earlier this week in a clip shown on the national news. “Pare,” he begged, “h’wag n’yo na ilabas ‘yan.” He was behind bars after having been picked up by the police for assaulting a neighbour.

He was literally pleading for his life – and the potential damage that the news clip could do to an already tarnished career in show business. While I have little sympathy for Geisler’s often self-inflicted notoriety, what I did find disturbing was the utter lack of privacy in a person’s moment of vulnerability.

He is in showbiz, of course; but even that should not reduce a person to the level of having to beg to be left alone.

Geisler’s coming out into the open to bring some attention to the ailment from a personal perspective gives us the perfect opportunity to look at people we know at close hand who have been behaving erratically but who we simply dismiss as being brats.

At any rate, Geisler subsequently made himself available for interviews during which he disclosed that he has been suffering from something which he called bipolar disorder or bipolarism. Still no excuse for assaulting a neighbour; but at least the assault incident was placed in perspective.

I was more interested in the illness which he mentioned than the assault itself. I did not think that I had heard of it before.

Reading up on the disorder, I found out that his ailment used to be called manic-depressive disorder. Now, this name I am familiar with.

It is a psychiatric disorder characterised by extreme and alternating mood swings. The afflicted can suddenly experience a heightened state of frenzy and high energy in what is known as the manic state or mania.

In this state, the person suffering from the disorder may become euphoric and may experience racing thoughts, insomnia, optimism, agitation or irritability. When in this mood, the afflicted feels a rush of blood to achieve personal goals and tends to go on spending sprees, totally irresponsible of possible financial consequences.

When the afflicted is at the highest state of mania, this is when the person exhibits extremely irrational and erratic behaviour bordering on psychosis and becomes prone to committing acts of violence.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the afflicted can suddenly slip into moods of low energy and self-esteem and negativity of thoughts. This is the depressive state or depression.

In this state, the afflicted goes through a period of extreme sadness, guilt, hopelessness and anxiety. The person can feel extremely tired and even begin to contemplate thoughts of suicide.

The term bipolarism, thus, is descriptive of the swings of mood from one extreme to the other, neither typical of what the average person experiences.

As Geisler himself explained in an interview with the media, the mood swings are caused by chemical imbalances in the body. Researchers are trying to ascertain if the illness is hereditary; but while there are suspicions that genetics have something to do with the disorder, this has not been fully established scientifically.

Regrettably – or as yet – there is no known cure to bipolarism. The illness is generally treated to control the mood swings with medications like antidepressants, anti-psychotics and mood stabilisers such as lithium.

In some cases, treatment also includes psychotherapy. In extreme cases of depression when all forms of medication have failed, electroconvulsive therapy is conducted on the patient. This treatment uses electricity to bring bodily convulsions and ‘reboot’ the brain. At least, that is what is generally believed.

Bipolarism can be traumatic on the family of the afflicted as parents and siblings have to live and deal with the person’s sudden swings of mood. If the person is untreated, the ailment can cause him to go into substance abuse; legal and financial trouble; marred relationships with loved ones, friends, acquaintances and co-workers; and, in severe cases, suicide.

Geisler said in the same interview that he has known that he has had the disorder for four years and has self-medicated; but had kept the matter to himself in fear of the stigma that it could lead to; i.e. the stigma of being seen as a lunatic.

The fear is understandable. On the other hand, the illness is just as likely to afflict any person regardless of gender, ethnicity or economic status. It is nothing to be ashamed of but has to be controlled and, more importantly, treated professionally.

Geisler’s coming out into the open to bring some attention to the ailment from a personal perspective gives us the perfect opportunity to look at people we know at close hand who have been behaving erratically but who we simply dismiss as being brats.

For all we know, the person needs to see a doctor and seek professional treatment.

Notes and refernces:

Bipolar Disorder on Wikipedia
What Causes Bipolarism?
About Bipolarism
Electroconvulsive Therapy on Wikipedia

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