Common Mental Health Conditions: Bipolar Disorder

There are many types of mental health conditions and illnesses, some are very similar, some cross over meaning you may experience symptoms of more than one condition.

It’s important to recognise the common symptoms of each so that you can recognise when it is time to seek professional medical help, either for yourself or someone close to you, so over the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing descriptions of a few of the more common and often-discussed mental health conditions.

First up? Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar Disorder (once referred to as manic depression) mainly affects mood. Bipolar is a severe, life-long mental illness characterised by significant mood swings from manic highs to suicidal depression. However, not everyone experiences these extremes in the same way as bipolar affects everyone differently and can also be difficult to diagnose.

There are however, common signs to help you identify the illness.

We don’t know what causes bipolar. But it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental causes and men and women of any age and social or ethnic background can develop bipolar. It can be triggered when work, studies, family and emotional stresses are at their greatest. For women, it can also be triggered by childbirth or menopause.

The key to coping with bipolar is early diagnosis where possible, acceptance of the condition and disorder, and then adapting your lifestyle so you’re in control of your symptoms. Bipolar can be easily managed with medication, health care, therapy and self management or self care.

Some facts from Bipolar UK:

• More than one million people in the UK have bipolar (diagnosed)

• It can take on average 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis

• Individuals with bipolar are misdiagnosed, on average, 3.5 times

• Treatment of bipolar is still hampered by stigma and misunderstanding

What Bipolar is not (common myths)

• People with bipolar are always either manic or depressed (there can be long periods were you feel neither)

• All medications and treatments for bipolar are the same (there are a range of medications and treatments that work for different people)

• People with bipolar disorder will lose their creativity if they get treatment (feeling stable and well makes you perform better, creativity is nothing to do with mental illness)

• People with bipolar change their minds a lot! (nothing to do with bipolar at all)

• Bipolar disorder can be cured through diet and exercise (there is currently no cure)

• Bipolar is just mood swings! (see below for the common symptoms)

• There is only one type of bipolar (there are actually at least 3)

What Bipolar is (common symptoms)

• Bipolar disorder can cause your mood to swing from an extreme high to an extreme low.

• Manic symptoms can include increased energy, excitement, impulsive behaviour and agitation.

• Depressive symptoms can include lack of energy, feeling worthless, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

• You can also have psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms can mean that you see and hear things that feel real but they don’t exist.

Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have serious impact. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings are overwhelming you, in between you might have stable times where you experience fewer symptoms.

If you recognise any of the above behaviours and symptoms in either yourself or someone close, and have not received a psychiatric diagnosis of bipolar then make an appointment to discuss this with your GP. It can also be a good idea to keep a mood diary to help you understand your mood and any swings you experience.

For more information on Bipolar Disorder you can visit the following links:

2 thoughts on “Common Mental Health Conditions: Bipolar Disorder

  1. Actually, I did change my mind a lot before diagnosis and treatment. This was because I lacked consistency and commitment, owing to inconsistency of mood. When hypomanic I would offer to do all kinds of things that people would get really excited about. Then when depressed, I could never keep going with my projects and people were left really disappointed. I thought for a long time that inconsistency was just a negative character trait in me. I realise now that it was mood related, because I am now good at consistency and commitment. I also did lose my ability to write when I first started the meds, but I trained myself to journal starting from 3 sentences a day and, 18 months later, I’ve just started this blog. The quality of my writing is better because I’m not thinking at 100 miles a minute, or not writing at all while depressed. There’s more thoughtfulness and less immature showing off in my writing. And I care less about what other people think because I’m confident in myself. But not confident enough to write under my birth certificate name because there remains a lot of stigma and I want to be able to write about it without being personally judged as a “crazy” or a “dangerous person” by ignorant people who know me by name.

    1. The changing mind comment was aimed at challenging the stigma and the comments people sometimes use to describe people, often they would claim in a jokey way, in a similar way that some people would describe tidy people as OCD. It’s great that you are doing so well, and able to write about your experiences, one step at a time though, the important thing is that you have that confidence in yourself.

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