Remember when we were young and the greatest excitement was when the circus came to town?   All the thrills of the rides and other circus fare filled our hearts with glee!  Nobody could miss a turn on the merry-go-round, though.  Many children looked for the highest and (what they believed to be) the fastest horse on the ride, teasing those children who chose to ride in the seats that didn't move.

 

Many people with bipolar disorder today refer to their experience as a merry-go-round, only they're not referring to that childish ride we enjoyed so much when we were young.  In fact, they don’t enjoy their ride at all.

 

The bipolar merry-go-round refers to the extreme mood swings characteristic of bipolar disorder – the "ups and downs," if you will.  A person with the disorder can experience depression (extreme sadness) or mania (extreme happiness), or sometimes a mix of the two.

 

When in a depressive state of bipolar disorder, an individual may manifest symptoms such as the following:  increased sleep; change in appetite; fatigue; disinterest in things that used to interest them; isolation; feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; body aches and headaches; and thoughts of death and suicide.

 

When in a manic state of bipolar disorder, the individual may manifest symptoms such as the following:  decreased sleep; decreased appetite; increased energy; thoughts of grandeur (greatness); risk-taking behavior; inability to focus or make decisions; inability to think clearly; and possible delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there).  Even irritability, anger, paranoia, and violence are possible when the person is in a manic state.

 

Before returning to a normal state, someone who has been in a manic state (or "episode") will most likely "crash" into a bipolar depressive episode.   When someone has been in a depressed episode, however, they will usually return directly to a normal state, without experiencing mania.

 

You can see, then, why someone with bipolar disorder might liken the extreme mood swings (and the changing of them) to being on a bipolar merry-go-round.