The ups and downs of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.
People with bipolar disorder have periods or episodes of depression – feeling very low and lethargic or mania, which is feeling very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania).
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), and some people may not expe-rience a “normal” mood very often.
You may initially be diag-nosed with clinical depres-sion before having a future 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 or having severe depressive symptoms, con-tact your GP, care co-ordinator or local mental health emergency services as soon as possible.
If you want to talk to some-one confidentially, call the Samaritans, free of charge, on 116 123. You can talk to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, visit the Samaritans website or email email@example.com.
During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy and have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas. You may spend large amounts of money on things you can’t afford and wouldn’t normally want.
Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase.
You may feel very creative and view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive expe-rience. However, you may also experience symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that aren’t there or become convinced of things that aren’t true.
Living with bipolar disorder
The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life.
However, 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:
Medication to prevent episodes of mania, hypomania (less severe mania) and depression – these are known as mood stabilisers and are taken every day on a long-term basis.
Medication to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they occur.
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, plan-ning 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.