Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Lots of people have ups and downs and are familiar with the experience of mood swings. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression or bipolar affective disorder) is characterised by periods, or ‘episodes’, of unusually high and low levels of mood, energy and activity. Between these episodes, mood is generally what is considered ‘normal’ for the individual.

How do I know if I have bipolar disorder?

You may be experiencing mania, depression or mixed state.

What is mania?
Mania is a period of elated or irritable and agitated mood lasting at least a week, nearly every day, such as becoming more talkative, speaking faster, racing thoughts, reduced need for sleep, restlessness, easily distracted, impulsive or carefree, disinhibited or involved in risky behaviour such as promiscuity or over spending. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania.

What is depression?
Depression is a period of low mood and/or loss of interest and pleasure for at least 2 weeks. The following symptoms are experienced for most of the day, nearly every day, change to sleep patterns and appetite, crying, feeling lethargic or agitated, loss of energy, feeling worthless, having feelings of wanting to harm yourself.

What is mixed state?
Mixed state is a depressed mood with the restlessness and overactivity of a manic episode.

What should I do if I think I have bipolar disorder?

It is important to remember that mood fluctuations are a normal part of our emotional lives. However if your mood is so high or so low that you cannot carry on your normal day to day activities or if other people are commenting on your behaviour as being unlike your normal self then a good starting place is with your GP who can refer you for the appropriate help, usually a community mental health team, a crisis team or a psychiatrist.

What can I do to help myself?

• Learn to relax, there are books, CDs and DVDs to help you.
• Talk to someone about how you are feeling
• Try to keep to a set routine each day
• Try keeping a simple chart of your mood and sleep pattern each day so that you can get a clear idea of how and when your mood is high or low and what your sleep pattern is. You might then want to show this to your mental health professional.
• Self help groups and information. MDF the bipolar organisation is a national charity with local self help groups which you may find helpful. Access them at:

What professional help could I get?

You can talk to your GP about how you are feeling. They may recommend:
o Medication, usually antidepressants, mood stabilisers or antipsychotics
o Talking therapy, usually counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychoeducation or family focused therapy
o Referral to a psychiatrist
o Referral to a community mental health team

Where can I find out more?

National Health Service website:

Royal College of Psychiatrists website:

Self-Help Website:

Academic Website:

There is an excellent report called Understanding Bipolar Disorder that has been published by the British Psychological Society. It can be downloaded from

If you would like to discuss issues related to Bipolar Disorder or as many people know it manic depression, please visit our Bipolar Disorder Forum.

The Mental Health Forum thanks the anonymous author for writing this article. It has been written especially for the Mental Health Forum.

5 comments to Bipolar Disorder

  • Kara

    I’ve recently been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. I’ve been going to a doctor for over 3 years & have been missed diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety. After being put on medications for these disorders, my behavior got even worse. 2 weeks ago i got placed on lamotrigine & have started to feel better. I’m only 20 years old. When will i start to feel normal again? Thats all i want, i’ve caused my family so much pain i just want to be normal for them. Thank you.

  • Alex

    I have never been diagnosed with anything. I guess I lived some traumatic experiences at some point in my life but I don’t know if how I feel it’s normal, I sometimes have many suicidal ideas and then I change them for…I don’t want to say homocidal ideas, but wanting to hurt people. Like sometimes I need someone and sometimes I want to everyone to go away and never talk to me again, Like if I were dealing with double standards sometimes at the same time. I really don’t know what to do, I just pretend everything is ok and maybe I will not be able to do it all the time, but I want to know if have something like bipolar disorder

  • heni

    Hello im 18 and i think i have bipolar i have been diagnosed with pranoid schizophrenia 2 years ago but it wasnt my proper diagnosis it was just for the better medications.But the main thing that i want an advice from you for the main problem of mine is that im sooo so confused im extremely confused with the life overall and i really dont know what to do.Right now im in a very deep depression which came just like that all of a sudden i really really dont know what to do since ive been suffering with mental illness which was 5 years ago i have felt like im living in a big lie .Its very hard for me to really realize what really is going on with me and either i cant explain what it is like to my psychiatrist.When i was there for the first time i only sad 2 sentences and i wad diagnosed.Treatment anyway has helped me but now im on the last injection or appointment with my doctor and im steel feelin not very cured.I dont know what im going to do if im the same way after the treatment .Anyway the doctor has told me that im going to be fully cured but i dont feel that way at all.And again i dont really know what my real diagnosis is yet. Please answer my comment because basically that is a very deep call for help!!!

  • Admin

    Hi This is a question that you can ask on our forum. Take a look at:

  • Mary

    I was recently diagnosed as Bipolar (mixed) after being on many different Antidepressants for the last 13 years.They would work for a short while, but my moods/behaviors were always erratic.Went from job to job, moved many times etc.I recently had a bad crisis of drinking wine every night and not being able to sleep/bad panic attacks etc.My Pdoc put me on Symbiax 3/25 for my extreme depression and started me on Lamictal 25mg and to increase/titrate to 150mg every 2 weeks. He also advised me to wean off Effexor and I am now down to 18.75 .Symbiax seemed to work the first night I took it.I slept soundly for the first night in weeks. I also stopped the wine. But after taking the Symbiax for 3 nights I started reading the possible s/e and I became concerned about my excessive hunger, and the possibility of NMS and TD.Igot really paranoid and flushed them.I now am back to not being able to sleep.I only had 4 more days on it anyway.Do u think I messed myself up by stopping it?

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