Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Information, Causes and Treatment


Overview: Bipolar Disorder (once known as Manic Depression) is a serious mental health condition which features intense mood swings. People with Bipolar disorder have periods of depression (lows) and mania (highs). These periods can sometimes last weeks, and causes a significant problem for those living with the condition. Bipolar disorder often begins as Depression, before exacerbating. The depressive periods of Bipolar are characterised by long-term periods of low moods. During the mania phase – an individual will feel happy, energetic and ambitious. They will often spend recklessly. Bipolar disorder can also include elements of Psychosis.


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Symptoms: Bipolar disorder is characterised by intense mood swings. These mood swings range from periods of depression (lows) and mania (highs). These moods can last for months.


Depression: Feeling sad and hopeless. Being continuously tired, lacking energy, trouble concentrating, feeling worthless, low self-esteem, low appetite, insomnia, suicidal thoughts.


Mania: Feeling very happy, talking quickly, feeling energetic, having great ideas, being easily distracted, not feeling the need to sleep, not eating, making risky, dangerous or harmful decisions.


It is possible for those suffering from Bipolar to sometimes have what is considered a ‘normal’ mood. Periods of one extreme can last longer than another, or run in cycles.


Causes: The exact cause of Bipolar disorder is unknown. It appears that a combination of factors contribute to the development of the condition. Genetics play a considerable part in the cause of Bipolar, with the condition often running in families. A stressful or traumatic experience can also lead to bipolar disorder. Like many other mental health problems, a chemical imbalance in the brain is also believed to contrast to the development of the condition. Some medications can also lead to manic or depressive episodes.



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Diagnosis: It is highly recommended that you contact your GP if you believe you are suffering from Bipolar disorder. It is likely you will be referred to a psychiatrist who will be a specialist in Bipolar disorder. The psychiatrist will attempt to gain a thorough understanding of your symptoms, and then make an assessment. You will need to provide answers to several questions – regarding how frequent your episodes are, how long they last and a family history. Only a psychiatrist can diagnose you with Bipolar disorder – a GP cannot. In some cases you may be diagnosed with Cyclothymia – which is a milder variant of Bipolar disorder.


Treatment: While Bipolar disorder generally isn’t curable, the symptoms generated by the condition can be alleviated substantially with the correct treatment. Hopefully, this will result in those suffering with the disorder not enduring a profound impact on their life. Treatment can also reduce the severity of episodes. Medication is an important part of treatment, with Mood Stabilisers being used on a long-term basis. Psychotherapy is also utilised. These two combined can be highly beneficial. The majority of people suffering from Bipolar receive treatment away from hospital, though in some cases Sectioning is necessary.


Medication: Mood Stabilisers are generally used, however Antipsychotics and Antidepressants can also be prescribed. Lithium is the medication that is most frequently used to treat the disorder. The type of medication that is prescribed will depend on your particular circumstance.


Psychological Treatment: While medication is mainly used, sometimes a form of Psychotherapy is used.


Living With Bipolar: Bipolar disorder is an incredibly difficult condition to live with. It is highly likely that it will cause disruption to family and friends of someone who is suffering. The depressive phases of Bipolar can lead to an individual becoming devoid of motivation and a will to live. Meanwhile the manic phase can see reckless spending take place, along with a general loss of control. Appreciation of what the individual is going through is important. It should be noted that the individual suffering from the condition won’t often be aware they are going through the manic phase, and will therefore need close attention and guidance. Bipolar disorder leads to complications in relationships, jobs can be tough to undertake, and there is an increased risk of suicide. It is highly important that someone suffering from Bipolar disorder takes medication prescribed for them regularly.