What is bipolar?

Recognising the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects a person’s mood states. A person living with bipolar can experience extreme highs and lows that may be overwhelming or distressing and have a significant impact upon their life.

Bipolar used to be known as manic depression. It’s typically identified by cycles of extreme highs, known as manic or hypomanic episodes, which may be followed by a phase of depression.

What are the symptoms of bipolar?

During a ‘high’ phase, someone with bipolar may feel euphoric, excitable, wakeful, irritable, talkative, sexual, confident or adventurous. These feelings can make people lose their social inhibitions or take risks they later feel tired, embarrassed, anxious or depressed about.

A manic episode can last a week or more, while hypomanic episodes are generally shorter and less extreme. Both can be followed by a period of depression and feelings of low self-esteem, inability to focus, guilt, tiredness, tearfulness, hopelessness, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

There is more than one type of bipolar disorder

Bipolar 1 disorder may be diagnosed in someone who has had a manic episode that lasts a week or more. A depressive episode may not necessarily follow a manic phase, if you have Type 1 bipolar.

Bipolar 2 disorder may be diagnosed in someone who has had hypomanic episodes, followed by depression.

Cyclothymia is a mental health condition that’s similar, but less extreme than bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. Symptoms of the condition are cycles of hypomania and depression over a phase of two years or more, which are not diagnosed as bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, but still have a big impact on your life.

Help and support with bipolar

If you are struggling with extreme mood swings or depression, seek advice from your GP.

Peer group support may also be a help, if you need reassurance during a manic or hypomanic phase, or during a low.

Make a Difference provides a non-judgemental, safe space for you to be among and talk to other people who have lived experience of bipolar or coping with other mental health conditions.

You don’t need a diagnosis, referral or appointment to access mental wellbeing support and friendship at Make a Difference.

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