Amber courageously opened up about her bipolar disorder during tonight's Teen Mom OG episode -- and the difficult effects the manic-depressive illness has had on her life. Before she divulged her emotions surrounding the aforementioned diagnosis, Amber's producer Kerthy asked the Indiana native about her decision to undergo an upcoming "mommy makeover" surgery (relive some of the conversation below).
"This is really for me to make me feel better, because it's a big part of my depression," Amber stated, while adding that gaining and losing weight through the years also changed her body. "I was in bed for three weeks, but when I had Leah I would try my best to get up and do things -- but it was never enough."
However, taking prescription medication for her bipolar disorder helped with the symptoms but also made her feel "weird."
"I haven't felt normal in a long time," the 26-year-old confessed to her fiancé Matt and Kerthy, while wiping away tears. "I feel like I did a lot of self-medicating because I never felt right, and I didn't know what it was. If I had found this out years ago and had been on the right medication, a lot of things wouldn't have happened."
Taking Amber's comments about bipolar disorder into consideration, MTV News spoke with The Jed Foundation — a national nonprofit that promotes emotional health among teens and young adults — and asked for some helpful guidelines for those who struggle with the illness (or for those close to someone who does). But first a definition of bipolar disorder: It is a medical condition in which a person experiences extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). Also called manic-depression, it is more serious than the everyday ups and downs that most people experience. During a manic episode, a person’s mood flies high — he or she may be excessively excited, confident, irritable or aggressive. During a depressive episode, all that manic energy disappears and that same person might feel sad, sluggish/exhausted or uninterested in things he or she once enjoyed.
“Most people with bipolar disorder start experiencing symptoms in their 20s, so it can sometimes be hard to distinguish the highs and lows of this condition from the typical ups and downs of being 20-something,” says Courtney Knowles, a spokesperson for The Jed Foundation. “But it’s really important to diagnose and treat bipolar disorder as early as possible because many people, like Amber, find themselves self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, which makes things worse.”
Bipolar disorder is based in brain chemistry and tends to run in families. However, environmental factors such as stress, sleep disruption, and drug or alcohol use may also trigger manic-depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder can lead to a variety of mood patterns. Some people might primarily have episodes of mania or of depression, or they may cycle rapidly between the two. It’s also possible to remain symptom-free for extended periods of time.
Like Amber, the majority of people with bipolar disorder respond well to medication and therapy. If you’re worried that you or a friend might be dealing with a mental health condition, it’s important to get help and stick to a prescribed treatment plan. Here are some symptoms of mania and depression.
Symptoms of Mania:
• Excessively “high,” euphoric mood
• Extreme irritability
• Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers, such as feeling able to control world events
• Decreased need for sleep without feeling tired
• Racing thoughts or fast speech
• Distractibility or difficulty concentrating
• Spending sprees
• Increased energy, activity and restlessness
• Poor judgment
• Increased sexual drive
• Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol and sleeping medications
Symptoms of Depression:
• Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
• Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, including sex
• Withdrawal from friends and family
• Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
• Feeling tired or run down
• Thoughts or impulses to self-harm
Voice your support for Amber in the comments, and be sure to keep watching her journey on Teen Mom OG on Mondays at 9/8c. If you’re worried about a friend, here are some tips for reaching out and offering support. If you’re ready to get help, here are some resources to get you started. Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder will have thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know are feeling hopeless or are in crisis, text START to 741-741 or call 800-273-TALK (8255) for a confidential conversation anytime.