Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a condition that affects people’s moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.

People with bipolar disorder have periods or episodes of:

  • Depression – feeling low and lethargic
  • Hypomania and mania – feeling very high and overactive either for a short period or a longer period.

Causes of bipolar disorder

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but experts believe there could be a number or combined factors which make a person more susceptible to develop the condition.

Chemical imbalance – there’s evidence to suggest that symptoms of bipolar disorder could be caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals responsible for controlling the brain’s functions.

Genetics – bipolar disorder could also be linked to genetics, where family members of a person with the condition have an increased risk in developing it themselves. However, no single gene is responsible for bipolar disorder. Instead, a number of genetic and environmental factors are thought to act as triggers.

The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

During a period of depression, symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad and hopeless
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feelings of guilt and despair
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts

The manic phase of bipolar disorder may include:

  • Feeling very happy and elated
  • Talking quickly and full energy
  • Easily agitated and irritated
  • Doing things with disastrous consequences
  • Saying things out of character
  • Delusions and hallucinations

Helping someone with bipolar disorder

  • If a person is experiencing a depressive or manic episode, stay calm and move to a safer, quieter setting, if necessary
  • The person may say or do things that could be hurtful or embarrassing and these actions should not be taken personally
  • Do not tell them they are wrong or that they are making it up – at this moment in time they truly believe what they are saying is real
  • Communicate with them clearly and ask simple questions
  • If they’re experiencing severe symptoms during the episode, they may have a Crisis Plan which you can refer to, or a preferred contact number to tell
  • If you believe the safety of the person or others is in danger then call the emergency services

Useful contacts

Bipolar UK – Support for people with bipolar disorder and their families and friends 
Website – https://www.bipolaruk.org/

Rethink – A charity which provides advice, information and services for a range of mental health conditions 
Phone – 0808 801 0525
Website – https://www.rethink.org/

SANE– A forum which allows people to share their feelings and provide mutual support to anyone with mental health problems
Phone – 07984 967 708
Website – https://www.sane.org.uk/

NHS UK – Information about health problems and treatments, including details of local NHS services in England.
Website – https://www.nhs.uk/

Samaritans – Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide
Call – 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call) 
Email – jo@samaritans.org
Website – www.samaritans.org


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