GUEST POST – A Psychology Sidenote: College Students, Bipolar Disorder & The U.S. Government

We usually refrain from sharing professional information, however as this is an important subject I have agreed to a guest post in which there are more facts than opinions. Please let me know what you think and if you find it interesting or helpful as I will use that information in consideration for similar guest posts! 🙂

It can be hard to determine if a college student is bipolar or … just a college student. Periods of malaise followed by periods of energy are par for the course in college students, however bouts that catch the attention of psychologists specializing in criminal activity should still be outside the norm. The severe cycling that is cause for concern is what takes place in those affected by bipolar disorder, though the cycling is more erratic, and can be more dangerous. The periods of mania, the “highs,” are characterized by extreme emotions like euphoria and irritability. On the opposite side of the coin, the “lows” are periods of profound depression. Bipolar disorder is becoming linked with college students because the average age at diagnosis is during college. More than 50%of diagnoses occur between the ages of 15 to 25, stated the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In fact, some scientists are speculating that college is the trigger for a first bipolar episode. The late nights spent studying, loss of routine from years spent at home, and new experiences can be jarring enough to set off the disorder.

Unlike depression, which is more often diagnosed in women than in men, men and women are affected equally by bipolar disorder. Sadly, between one quarter and one half of diagnosed bipolar disorder patients will attempt suicide at least once. In an age group where suicide is the third most common cause of death, and, outside of elderly men, accounts for the highest risk for suicide, adding bipolar disorder to the mix can be a deadly cocktail.

Thankfully, many colleges are doing their part to assist students. Campus-run clinics can help newly-diagnosed people with bipolar disorder find the right treatment plan for them, including medication and holistic approaches, like exercise and talk therapy. For students whose needs run beyond what can be provided on campus, clinics can direct them towards other resources or support groups with more information.

Colleges can only do so much for their bipolar students. Treatment options are very limited, and many students fail to stay on the course of treatment due to the weight gain associated with bipolar medication. Many students enjoy their manic periods, since the energy caused by the highs often leads to periods of creativity and productivity. The last bipolar specific drug, lithium, was researched in the fifties, and though it can relieve manic periods, it can worsen the depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder.

One of the most pressing concerns for students with bipolar disorder is the implementation of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which would extend equal out-of-pocket costs, benefit limits, among other benefits, to mental health and substance abuse covered under Medicaid managed-care and group health plans. Currently, less than half of the almost 46 million Americans over 18 that have been diagnosed with a mental illness are under a treatment plan.

You can do your part to further the cause for bipolar college students, adults with mental illnesses, and those struggling with substance abuse problems by advocating for the implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. By pushing for the act, you will be helping assure that thousands of Americans have access to the resources they need to combat their disorders.It seems like such a small thing to do for education. But in a time when finances for college resources are already stressed, support for the mental well-being of students will go a long way.


Adding to this blog’s discussion about bipolar issues is Kylie Dunning, a writer who specializes in the area of psychology. Here she discusses the issues faced by bipolar college students and health care initiatives proposed to assist them in getting proper treatment. Dunning is a staff writer for a site that explores forensic psychology and provides information on what forensic psychologists do.

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