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Bipolar Disorder

BiPolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that affects your moods,

which can swing from 1 extreme to another.

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Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects your moods, which can swing from 1 extreme to another. It used to be known as manic depression.


Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder have episodes of:

  • depression – feeling very low and lethargic

  • mania – feeling very high and overactive

Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer).


You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before you have a manic episode, after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.


During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may:

  • feel very happy

  • have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas

  • spend large amounts of money on things you cannot afford and would not normally want

It's also common to:

  • not feel like eating or sleeping

  • talk quickly

  • become annoyed easily

You may feel very creative and view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive experience.

But you may also experience symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that are not there or become convinced of things that are not true.

Treatments for bipolar disorder

The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life.

But there are several options for treating bipolar disorder that can make a difference.

They aim to control the effects of an episode and help someone with bipolar disorder live life as normally as possible.

The following treatment options are available:

  • medicine to prevent episodes of mania and depression – these are known as mood stabilisers, and you take them every day on a long-term basis

  • medicine to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they happen

  • learning to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania

  • psychological treatment – such as talking therapy, which can help you deal with depression, and provides advice about how to improve your relationships

  • lifestyle advice – such as doing regular exercise, planning activities you enjoy that give you a sense of achievement, as well as advice on improving your diet and getting more sleep

It's thought using a combination of different treatment methods is the best way to control bipolar disorder.

Help and advice for people with a long-term condition or their carers is also available from charities, support groups and associations.

This includes self-help and learning to deal with the practical aspects of a long-term condition.

What causes bipolar disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, although it's believed a number of things can trigger an episode.

These include:

  • extreme stress

  • overwhelming problems

  • life-changing events

  • genetic and chemical factors

Who's affected

Bipolar disorder is fairly common, and around 1 in every 100 people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their life.

Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 15 and 19.

Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.

The pattern of mood swings in bipolar disorder varies widely.

For example, some people only have a couple of bipolar episodes in their lifetime and are stable in between, while others have many episodes.

Credit: NHS

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