If your loved one goes into deep bipolar depressions (episodes), you may be familiar with the symptoms of feeling helpless and hopeless, along with feeling sad.  Unfortunately, sometimes these feelings become so overwhelming that the bipolar disorder can actually kill them.


Why do I say that it is the bipolar disorder that kills them instead of them killing themselves?


Because suicide is not the action of a rational mind.


A bipolar episode causes the person to have irrational thoughts – sometimes even thoughts of dying and of suicide – especially if they are experiencing psychotic features (hallucinations and delusions) as part of that episode.


The episode can cause them to do things that they would not ordinarily do.  It can also cause them to interpret things incorrectly, because it affects their thought processes.


For example, a person with bipolar disorder during a "normal" period may have good self-esteem and be happy with their life; however, in an episode, they may be exactly the opposite.  It's not their fault – it's the fault of the bipolar disorder that they have.


Headlines are full of stories where a person with bipolar disorder either killed themselves or got shot by the police (who didn't know they had bipolar disorder).


Impulsivity is another problem in a bipolar episode.


Where normally the person would make good decisions, an episode can cause them to be impulsive and make poor decisions.  Sometimes this can even result in death.


Having untreated (unmedicated) bipolar disorder is another way that bipolar disorder kills people who have it.  The National Institute on Mental Health states that 20% (1 in 5) of people with untreated bipolar disorder WILL kill themselves.


If your loved one starts expressing feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse; or talks about death and dying (or even threatens to kill themselves), take it very seriously, and encourage them to get help immediately.