Understanding Bipolar

Understanding Bipolar

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder was formerly known as manic depression and is a mental health disorder characterised by extreme mood swings or fluctuations. 

People with Bipolar suffer periods of mania when they feel elated, almost high, they feel invincible and full of life and positivity.  Then they have periods of depression, when their mood is low, and they withdraw and lose interest in everything around them and can have suicidal thoughts.  Sometimes they can also have psychotic symptoms which can occur during periods when they are feeling manic or depressed.

However people can have bipolar disorder without ever suffering from mania or experiencing psychotic symptoms.  It’s not the same for everyone who has it, mood swings can vary some last for days or weeks, they can be milder or more extreme in their intensity.  Some people will experience periods of feeling their moods are what they might refer to as “normal” neither high nor low.  For others they can have what’s called rapid cycling where their mood goes from high to low with no even moods in between.  They can also have what is known as mixed state which is where a person experiences mania and low mood at the same time, so they could feel depressed but highly active.

Bipolar disorder is not as rare as some people think, but it is a serious mental health condition, and whilst there is no cure it’s symptoms can be controlled with mood stabilising medication and the help of therapy.  There is a stigma attached to bipolar by people who don’t fully understand the condition.  This can be hard for people who suffer with the condition, who can often find it hard to maintain relationships or keep jobs, without having to deal with other people’s judgment.


The causes aren’t always precisely known, but things like, life changing events, extreme stress, seemingly over whelming situations and brain chemistry are believed to trigger episodes for some people.

Physical Symptoms

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Rapid speech
  • Waking up early
  • Problems concentrating
  • Not wanting to sleep or wanting to sleep more
  • Lack of appetite
  • Memory problems

Psychological Symptoms

  • Feelings of guilt and despair
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless or empty inside
  • Disturbing or illogical thoughts
  • Feelings of self-doubt
  • Feelings of extreme happiness
  • Being easily distracted
  • Feeling full of energy and ideas wanting to make plans
  • Feelings of self-importance

Behavioural Changes

  • Loss of interest in things you enjoy
  • Acting out of character
  • Saying or doing reckless things
  • Being less or more sociable than normal
  • Spending money on things they can’t afford or don’t need

Self Help

There are many organisations available to support people with bipolar and which can be found on line.  Looking after your physical health and building a support network with family, friends or work colleagues can also help.

Professional Health

Doctors can prescribe medications like mood stabilisers, antidepressants and antipsychotics, to manage episodes, as well as therapies like psychotherapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to help with unwanted thoughts and behaviours, and to learn coping mechanisms.  Written by Jan Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free information click above link.