Bipolar disorder is sometimes called manic depression. It is a mental health condition marked by extreme changes in mood. Everybody experiences mood changes from time to time but where these changes are extreme and intense, it may indicate bipolar disorder.
In bipolar, moods can swing between low and high. A low mood involves feelings of intense depression, despair and poor self-esteem. This is known as a depression. A high mood may involve excessive energy, restlessness and racing thoughts. This is known as elation or a manic episode. Individuals with bipolar usually experience alternating low and high moods, but some will have only manic episodes.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder affects about one in every 100 adults. It can start at any time during or after the teenage years, although it is unusual for it to start after the age of 40. Men and women are affected equally. Bipolar disorder responds well to treatment and people with bipolar disorder can lead normal lives.
Sometimes, an individual with bipolar may only notice the depressive phases (they may understand the ‘highs’ as being ‘in a good mood’) and so may only present for treatment for depression. It is important that if you have a family history of bipolar or suspect that someone else in your family may have experienced it, that you tell your GP, as there can be family link with bipolar, and it is important the GP knows this so you can get the most appropriate treatment.
During the manic phase a person may:
- Feel "on top of the world".
- Be over-confident.
- Be restless and over-active and plan too many activities for a given time period.
- Sleep less, without feeling tired.
- Be easily irritated.
- Have racing thoughts and talk at a fast pace.
- Lack judgment which may lead to reckless driving, sexual indiscretions, spending sprees or increased use of alcohol or drugs.
- Give unusual attention to previously unimportant or irrelevant things.
- Have false beliefs of self-importance, power or knowledge.
- Have false beliefs of being controlled by someone or something.
During the depressed stage a person may:
- Feel worthless, helpless, hopeless, and guilty.
- Lose all interest in people and enjoyable activities
- Have appetite changes: over or under eating, leading to weight changes.
- Feel tired all the time.
- Sleep more than usual or have trouble sleeping.
- Have trouble concentrating.
- Have aches and pains that have no physical cause.
- Think about death, or attempt suicide.
- Have false beliefs of being inadequate.
If you think that you or someone you know might be showing signs of bipolar disorder, it is very important to get help.
Bipolar disorder responds well to treatment. Contact your local doctor or GP.
You can go to the Irish College of General Practitioners website to find your local GP in the Republic of Ireland.
Talk to someone who you can trust as well.