Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression) affects around 1 in every 100 people. It appears to affect men and women equally and usually develops in the late teens to 30’s.

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition in which the sufferer experiences extreme mood swings, ranging from mania to deep depression. These mood swings vary in their frequency and duration, some people experience long periods of stability whereas others’ mood changes frequently and rapidly. There are four different types of Bipolar disorder;

  • Bipolar I – This is characterised by people who have at least one manic episode, lasting longer than a week (usually between 3 and 6 months). Some people with Bipolar I will only experience manic episodes but others will also go through bouts of depression.
  • Bipolar II – With this type there will have been at least one severe depressive episode but the manic periods will be mild, known as ‘hypomania’.
  • Rapid Cycling – When sufferers swing between high and low moods (or vice versa) quickly, with no stable period in between- this is known as rapid cycling. It is diagnosed if there are more than 4 mood swings in a 12 month period. Around 1 in every 10 bipolar sufferers are affected by this type.
  • Cyclothymia – This type doesn’t affect the sufferer with quite so severe mood swings, although it has the Capacity to develop into full Bipolar disorder.


During the manic stage of bipolar people feel a euphoric sense of well- being, they often have very grand idea’s and plans and experience endless optimism. As great as it sounds, mania can be so extreme that it can have a detrimental effect on a person’s judgement and decision making. This, of course, can have a negative effect on the person’s relationships, work and general day to day life. A less extreme version of this stage is known as hypomania.

Symptoms of Mania

  • Extreme happiness and elation
  • Low concentration span causing people to be easily distracted
  • Not eating or sleeping
  • Feeling endlessly capable of carrying out ambitious plans and grandiose idea’s
  • Talking quickly (pressured speech)
  • Irritability
  • Experiencing hallucinations or not thinking rationally
  • Doing enjoyable things but things that can have disastrous consequences, for example, spending large amounts of money on shopping or holidays that are in affordable.


Depression with bipolar can be very severe clinical depression, almost like the opposite extreme of the manic phase. Life can seem unbearable and everyday routine impossible.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feelings of despair and worthlessness
  • Withdrawal and loss of interest in socialising and general activities
  • Difficulty with decision making
  • Loss of libido
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping and loss of appetite
  • Loss of self confidence

The severe forms of mania and depression can also induce a psychotic episode. When depressed it may be characterised by massive feelings of guilt, like the feeling that one doesn’t deserve to exist, or even believing that one actually doesn’t exist. With manic psychosis people may have massively ambitious idea’s and plans, or even believe they have super- powers and special abilities.

In either state of psychosis people may experience hallucinations as well.

What causes bipolar disorder?

The fact that bipolar can be successfully treated with medication indicates that there could be something physically wrong with the chemicals in the brain which affects mood. Sometimes physical illness or traumatic life events happening seem to trigger episodes of bipolar. Bipolar appears to be more affected by nature than nurture, there is evidence to show that it can be passed down through genes.

Treatment Available

Bipolar is often treated with medication. There is medication for manic and/or depressive episodes or medication to stabilise a person’s mood. Some would be taken on a long- term basis and some as and when an episode occurs. The type and amount of  medication varies according to the individual’s needs, circumstances and the severity of the bipolar condition.

Other forms of treatment available include things like psycho-education, which involves learning more about the disorder, as well as techniques to recognise when one’s mood is changing dramatically or about to enter into an episode. It also teaches strategies to help prevent this mood entering into full depression or mania and suggests coping skills to help the person suffering, and their family and friends, in dealing with bipolar disorder.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also be an effective treatment in helping those affected deal with the depression that this condition may induce.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may require help and advice please call the Via Clinic on 01372 363939

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