What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy levels, and activity levels.

These shifts alternate between two main states: manic episodes and depressive episodes. Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience periods of intense euphoria, high energy, and impulsivity during manic episodes, followed by periods of profound sadness, low energy, and feelings of hopelessness during depressive episodes.

What are the different types of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar I Disorder: This involves experiencing at least one manic episode, which can be severe and disruptive, often requiring hospitalization. Depressive episodes may also occur, but they are not necessary for the diagnosis.

Bipolar II Disorder: This involves milder manic episodes, known as hypomanic episodes, along with depressive episodes. Hypomanic episodes are less severe than full-blown manic episodes and may not necessarily lead to significant impairment.

Cyclothymic Disorder: This is characterized by chronic fluctuations between less severe depressive and hypomanic symptoms, lasting for at least two years in adults and one year in adolescents.


What causes Bipolar Disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood, but it is thought to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Genetic predisposition plays a significant role, as the disorder tends to run in families.

Stressful life events and imbalances in certain brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, are also believed to contribute to the development of bipolar disorder.

What are treatments for Bipolar Disorder?

Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle management. Mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage mood fluctuations and prevent extreme episodes.

Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychoeducation, can be beneficial in teaching individuals coping strategies, helping them understand their condition, and identifying triggers for mood episodes.

It’s important for individuals with bipolar disorder to work closely with mental health professionals to develop a personalized treatment plan and to engage in ongoing self-care practices to manage their condition effectively. If you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder, seeking professional help is essential for proper diagnosis and management.

What are the signs of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by shifts between manic (or hypomanic) and depressive episodes. The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary widely depending on the specific phase of the disorder. Here are the key signs associated with both manic and depressive episodes:

Manic Episode:

During a manic episode, individuals experience an elevated mood and increased energy levels. They may engage in impulsive and reckless behaviors and have a reduced need for sleep. Some common signs of a manic episode include:

  • Elevated Mood: Feeling extremely happy, euphoric, or irritable beyond what’s considered typical.
  • Increased Energy: Having a surplus of energy and feeling highly motivated.
  • Decreased Need for Sleep: Feeling rested despite sleeping very little or not at all.
  • Rapid Speech: Speaking quickly and jumping between topics, sometimes making it difficult for others to keep up.
  • Racing Thoughts: Thoughts may come so rapidly that it’s challenging to focus on one idea.
  • Impulsivity: Engaging in risky behaviors without considering potential consequences, such as excessive spending, reckless driving, or engaging in unsafe sexual activities.
  • Grandiosity: Feeling overly confident and having an inflated sense of self-worth.
  • Increased Social Activity: Seeking out social interactions and being more outgoing than usual.
  • Distractibility: Finding it hard to concentrate on tasks due to the high level of mental activity.

Depressive Episode:

During a depressive episode, individuals experience low mood and energy levels, along with a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Some common signs of a depressive episode include:

  • Persistent Sadness: Feeling extremely sad, empty, or hopeless for an extended period.
  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Fatigue: Experiencing low energy and feeling physically and mentally exhausted.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping.
  • Appetite Changes: Significant changes in appetite and weight, either loss or gain.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling to focus, make decisions, or remember things.
  • Feelings of Worthlessness: Feeling excessively guilty or worthless.
  • Physical Aches and Pains: Experiencing unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, body aches, or stomach problems.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Thoughts of death or suicide, or a preoccupation with dying.

It’s important to note that not everyone with bipolar disorder will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity and duration of episodes can vary. Additionally, the transitions between episodes can be gradual or sudden. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder, it’s crucial to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Only a qualified mental health professional can provide a definitive diagnosis and create a tailored treatment plan.

What are the statistics on bipolar disorder in the UK?

As of 2021, some key statistics related to bipolar disorder in the UK included:

Prevalence: It was estimated that around 1% to 2% of the UK population had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.

Age of Onset: Bipolar disorder typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood, but it can also develop in childhood or later in life.

Gender: Bipolar disorder affects both genders, but some studies have suggested a slightly higher prevalence among women.

Treatment: Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle management. However, access to appropriate treatment and support can vary.

Impact: Bipolar disorder can significantly impact various aspects of a person’s life, including relationships, work, and overall quality of life.

Suicide Risk: Individuals with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, particularly during depressive episodes. Adequate treatment and support are crucial to managing this risk.

Stigma and Awareness: Mental health stigma can still be a barrier to seeking help for bipolar disorder in the UK, but efforts to raise awareness and reduce stigma have been ongoing.

Who to contact about Bipolar Disorder in the UK?

Mind: Mind is a well-known mental health charity in the UK that provides information, support, and resources for individuals living with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions. They offer a helpline, online resources, and local support groups.

Website: Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (Available Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm)

Rethink Mental Illness: Rethink Mental Illness is another major mental health charity in the UK that provides support and information for individuals affected by bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.

Website: Advice and Information Service: 0300 5000 927 (Available Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 4:00 pm)

Bipolar UK: Bipolar UK is a charity specifically dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by bipolar disorder. They offer a range of resources, support groups, and information.

Website: Support Line: 0333 323 3880 (Available Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm)

NHS: The National Health Service (NHS) provides comprehensive mental health services across the UK. You can contact your local NHS mental health services or your GP (general practitioner) for guidance, assessment, and treatment options.

Find NHS mental health services near you: