What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar is a mental health difficulty that was previously known as manic depression. Individuals with Bipolar experience episodes of elevated mood called mania and periods of very low mood, known as depression. These episodes can last for weeks at a time or longer and the frequency with which they occur varies between individuals.
During episodes the individual’s mood may be elated or highly excited. They may feel overly positive about situations and put a lot of energy in activities. They may present as agitated, easily distracted or overly confident. They may experience disturbed sleep patterns, be overly friendly or take more risks than usual.
During episodes of depression an individual’s mood may be very low and they may experience feelings of lethargy, worthlessness or hopelessness. They my present as lacking in confidence, agitated, guilty or tearful. Individuals experiencing a depressive episode may lose interest in activities they usually enjoy, have a decreased appetite or struggle to sleep. If at any time you or someone you know feels suicidal you should seek help from your nearest A&E as soon as possible.
Bipolar Disorder affects both men and women with a typical onset in late adolescence/ early adulthood. For some individuals with Bipolar Disorder they may also experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations but this is not the case for everyone.
The episodes of Bipolar Disorder can interfere with everyday life and wellbeing. Psychiatrists can help you to access the right support to manage these symptoms and reduce their impact.
It is unknown what exactly causes Bipolar Disorder. Certain triggers have been implicated including genetic predisposition, feeling overwhelmed with significant life changes, experiences of trauma or extreme stress.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Bipolar Disorder can be complex and challenging to separate out from other mental health difficulties. Your Psychiatrist will want to explore the symptoms you experience and how frequently episodes occur and how long they last. They will be interested in finding out about your physical health, the impact of symptoms on other aspects of your life (e.g. relationships, work) and what has and has not worked in trying to manage the symptoms. You may also be asked about your family history.
Treatment options include psychiatric treatment to treat the symptoms of depression and mania, as well as psychological therapies, lifestyle adaptations and learning to recognise triggers or signs of an episode occurring.