Home Health More Kenyans suffering from bipolar disorder, the need to address it

More Kenyans suffering from bipolar disorder, the need to address it


Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression and alters moods that go from high to low, from excitement to depression.

Mania is described as mental illness ranging from euphoria, over activity and delusions.

Bipolar changes vary from mania to depression. Mania is a period of heightened energy, confidence, sense of well-being and pleasant moods.

It’s the most extreme and dramatic of symptoms and the symptoms become more severe as time passes by.

Manic episodes are speed episodes, work without ceasing, can’t stop moving or working.

People with bipolar disorder sometimes take alcohol to calm the feeling down.

Kenyan statistics

Reports indicate that 400,000 to 800,000 Kenyans live with the condition which has since been neglected courtesy of myths and misconception related to mental health in the country.

The manic brain is always busy, with senses, libido or work. This is because the main and basic problem is mood regulation and production of serotonin by the brain.

Related: Kenyan myths associated with Schizophrenia, a mental health condition

About 1 percent of the Kenyan population suffers from BPD with women harmed the highest especially from ages 25-29.  BPD in men also peaks at the same age as women.

Annually, 100,000 Kenyan lives are lost from BPD, thus creating a need to address mental health issues in Kenya.

  • High sex drive or libido (promiscuity)
  • Emotional outburst.
  • Needing attention and validation.
  • Self-destructive behaviours.
  • Withdrawal
  • Easily angered or upset

The most severe phase is the Mania which is characterized by increased energy and excitement. It has more ‘ups.

Mania symptoms
  • Psychotic symptoms of hallucinations and grandiosity.
  • Elated, euphoric or irritable mood symptoms.
  • High concentration or increase in concentration span.
  • Accelerated thinking
  • High libido or sex drive
  • Increase in energy levels
  • Insomnia or lack of the need to sleep.
  • Lack of appetite.

The less severe case is the hypomania phase. It is similar to the Mania phase with less severe symptoms that do not last long.

Hypomania should be treated otherwise it progresses to the manic phase or depression

Related: Is suicide a mental health issue? Symptoms to watch out

Mixed State Phase; it’s a combination of deep depression and heightened excitement. It’s the most dangerous phase as it involves negative feelings, excessive energy and tension.

Negative thoughts can lead to suicidal thoughts and worthlessness.

Hypomania symptoms
  • Irritability and anger.
  • Heightened concentration.

The last phase is the depression phase and is quite different to what people would normally term and consider as depression.

Annually, 100,000 Kenyan lives are lost from bipolar disorder: Photo / Courtesy
Depression symptoms
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Slowed thinking.
  • Low libido.
  • Insomnia and Hypersomnia.
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Loss of ability to feel pressure

People with BPD have increased creativity but do not follow through and have many incomplete projects.

In severe cases, they think about ending their lives.

Individuals, family members, teachers and colleagues can help in diagnosis by relating signs and symptoms and explaining their psychotic phases.

Mental health is as important as overall health thus there needs to be a discussion of mental health in Kenya and the taboo it has become.

By Serah Nderi


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here