Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder can make a person’s moods swing from one extreme to another between depression and mania.

Depression is where you feel very low and lethargic. Mania is where you feel very high and overactive. Each episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks or longer and some people do not experience a ‘normal’ mood very often. The pattern of mood swings in bipolar disorder varies widely between people. Some will only experience a couple of bipolar episodes in their lifetime and will be stable in between but others may experience many episodes.

Around one person in 100 is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The condition can occur at any age but often starts between the ages of 18 and 24 years. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.


It is common for the depression phase of bipolar disorder to be diagnosed first – sometimes years before a person experiences a manic episode which leads to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Symptoms during a phase of depression can include feeling worthless and this can turn to thoughts of suicide.

A person can feel very happy and have ambitious plans during a manic phase of bipolar disorder. Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder. Symptoms of psychosis can also occur during a manic phase including seeing or hearing things that are not there or becoming convinced of things that are not true.


Treatments for bipolar disorder aim to control the effects of an episode of mania or depression. Using a combination of treatments is thought to be the best way to control bipolar disorder. Treatment can include medication to prevent episodes of mania and depression (mood stabilisers that are taken daily on a long term basis), medication to treat the symptoms of mania or depression when these phases occur, psychological treatment such as talking therapy and lifestyle advice.

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