Knowledge

Mental Health Information

What is Bipolar Disorder?

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

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you’re experiencing.
Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer).

Depression

You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before you have a manic episode (sometimes years later), 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.
If you’re feeling suicidal, go to your nearest A&E as soon as possible.
If you’re feeling very depressed, contact a GP or your care co-ordinator or local mental health crisis team as soon as possible.

You could also call NHS 111 for an immediate assessment.

If you want to talk to someone confidentially, call the Samaritans, free of charge, on 116 123. You can talk to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Or visit the Samaritans website or email jo@samaritans.org.

Mania

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.

Living with 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.

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