Bipolar is classed as a mental health condition that will affect your mood in many ways. It can be from slight mood swings and then it can go to one extreme to another. It used to be known as manic depression. We all have our ups and downs but someone with bipolar disorder they have really severe mood swings. It causes shifts in mood and energy and the way the individual thinks. 

Sometimes they’re on a complete high commonly known as mania but then sink back down into the lows of depression. It’s so much more than just a bad or good mood. The cycles of bipolar disorder can occur for days, weeks or even months. The mood swings have the tendency to change rapidly, whilst also damaging relationships, school performance, job performance and just the ability to be able to function in daily life. 

With the manic episodes, you may decide to spend a load of money and you might not sleep for days. During an episode of depression, you might lay in bed for hours on end. You may start to feel feelings of hopelessness and an intense amount of sadness.

woman's portrait

Photo by Camila Quintero Franco on Unsplash

Symptoms of Bipolar

People who suffer from bipolar disorder have episodes of both depression and mania. Depression being very low and tired constantly. Mania is a sense of feeling happy and overactive and making impulsive decisions.

Depression: For depression, the symptoms the individual may be experiencing can vary. It can be a sense of sadness, feeling hopeless and very irritable, lacking a lot of energy, loss of interest in everyday activities, find it hard to concentrate on anything. Being delusional, may experience hallucinations and disturbed thinking, feelings of worthlessness or emptiness. A load of self-doubt, lack of appetite, lack of sleep and difficulty in doing so, waking up very early, suicidal thoughts.

Mania: For the Mania side of things, the symptoms again can vary for each individual. It can be a sense of happiness, talking very quickly, feeling an intense amount of energy, feeling motivated and inspired. Being delusional, may experience hallucinations and disturbed thinking. Not feeling like sleeping, not eating, doing things that have consequences, being easily distracted.

If you’re suffering from bipolar disorder you may experience more amounts of depression than episodes of mania or it can work the other way too. In between these episodes you may actually feel like your mood is pretty normal. There are two types of patterns when it comes to bipolar and some experience them in different ways. Rapid cycling is where a person who is suffering from bipolar will constantly swing from high to a low phase, without having that normal state in between.

A mixed state is where a person who suffers from bipolar will experience symptoms of depression and mania together. This can be feeling energetic and joyful but having a depressed mood.

man wiping his tears

Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

Causes of Bipolar

Like many mental health conditions, the exact cause for bipolar is unknown. There are studies behind how certain factors work together for someone to be able to develop the disorder. Most commonly is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Bipolar is believed to be the main result of the chemical imbalance in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical in the brain that is responsible for controlling the brains functions. They also include serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. So, if the individual has episodes of mania it means the noradrenaline is too high.

Triggers are another common cause of bipolar disorder. It could be down to a stressful trigger, a breakup, the death of a loved one, physical, emotional or sexual abuse or heartbreak. Not only that but it can be triggered by difficulties sleeping, a type of physical illness or perhaps having problems with work, relationships or money.

Genetics is also linked to bipolar disorder because most of the time it seems to be linked to families and run within them. Those that have someone in the family who’s had bipolar means that the people in the family have a higher chance of developing it. It’s not down to genes, it’s more focused on a wide variety of genetic and environmental factors.

Treatment

It’s so important to get help and reach out to your GP if you or someone you know is experiencing signs of bipolar. It’s an awful experience to have to go through alone, but there is treatment out there and there’s always help. If your GP feels you may have bipolar, they will most likely refer the individual to a mental health specialist.

The individual will then be assed by a professional at an appointment. They’ll start by asking a few questions to find out more and whether you have bipolar. If you do, then they’ll go on to decide what treatments are best for you. Throughout the assessment, you’ll be asked about the symptoms you’re experiencing and when they first occurred. Talking about how you feel leading up to and during an episode of both mania and depression, and whether or not the individual has had suicidal thoughts.

There are also some of the tests that could go ahead but they depend solidly on the symptoms the individual is experiencing. They might test you for some physical issues which may include whether you have an underactive thyroid or an overactive one.  If you have bipolar, you will most likely have to have regular physical health checks.

If the condition is left untreated, the episodes of bipolar disorder can last between three to six months for the mania. The episodes of depression tend to last a lot longer, ranging from six to twelve months. But with the correct treatment, episodes usually improve within three months. Some forms of treatment include medicine which prevents episodes of mania and depression. These are known as mood stabilisers, and you can take them every day for a long period of time. Some of the most commonly used ones are lithium, anticonvulsant medicines and antipsychotic medicines. It could also include a specific medicine to take when the main symptoms of depression or mania occur. A professional will help you learn the triggers and signs of an episode of mania or depression.

Psychological treatment, such as talking therapy, commonly known as CBT. This will help you deal with depression and provide the advice you need to be able to improve your relationships. You may also be told about lifestyle advice, such as progressing and doing regular exercise, doing things you enjoy and advice on sleep and diet.

heart-shaped red and beige pendant

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Self-help tips

No one can really cure bipolar just on there own and if you feel like it’s really getting you down then reach out. But, there are ways you can help yourself feel better and these are techniques you can use to help yourself whilst undergoing therapy.

Stay active and eat well, this can help reduce depressive symptoms but also help the individual feel fit and happier. It might make them feel better knowing they have a routine and that’s important. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly is an important way to live a healthier life and keep your mind healthy.

Talk about it and that’s so important, do not be scared to reach out. Some find it easier to speak out and some hideaway. Some prefer to talk to family or friends, some prefer to go to charities or support groups, either way is fine.

Avoid drugs and alcohol at all costs, some people who suffer from bipolar may use these to ease the distress they’re feeling. They have a variety of harmful physical and social effects, they’re not a substitute for treatment. It’s an important part of recovery and can help you gain stability. Trying to avoid stress is important. Talk to your work about the fact you have bipolar and that sometimes it can be hard for you, they will understand.

Getting help

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, which is a common symptom of bipolar. Without any form of treatment, these can get worse so it’s vital to get help. If you’re feeling suicidal be sure to ring someone, go to your nearest A&E or ring a helpline straight away. Call 111 as soon as possible, for an immediate assessment. Samaritans helpline is always open and the number is 116 123, it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you yourself or you know someone that has been diagnosed with bipolar or you think you may be suffering from it. It’s vital to get help, reach out to your GP and then work with them on the next steps. Perhaps seeing a therapist would be beneficial, it’s a key part of recovery is to reach out and get the help you need and to not be afraid.

If you’re looking for any online counselling or walk and talk therapy whether you’re a parent and you’re looking for your children. You yourself need it or you’re a student or anyone that is struggling at this time, then please do not hesitate to contact Becky. You can access contact details here. Check out the website for more information.

Visit Bipolar UK here. 

Visit Men’s Health forum here. 

Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or visit their website. 

Call PAPYRUS on 0800 068 4141.

https://www.counsellorwhocares.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/BeckyCares/

Journalist