Bipolar disorder is a serious, long-term condition where you have ‘lows’ (periods of depression) and ‘highs’ (periods of mania or hypomania.) The length of time you spend in each extreme can vary, it is usually for several weeks at a time or longer.
How common is bipolar disorder?
It’s estimated that about 2 in 100 people develop this condition. Although it can occur at any age, it most commonly first develops between the ages of 17 and 29 – and it occurs in the same number of men as women!
Symptoms of bipolar disorder
You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before you have a manic episode, after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During a depressive episode you may feel very low, lethargic and feel worthless, or useless.
In contrast, during a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy, have lots of energy, ambitious plans and spend large amounts of money on thing you cannot afford and would not normally want.
If you have symptoms of mania, often you do not realise that there is anything wrong, and it’s likely to be your friends or family who are the ones who can spot that you’re not your usual self.
Bipolar disorder is very different from the mood swings that moody people have which tend to last a few minutes or hours.
During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthless, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you’re feeling suicidal, go to your nearest A&E as soon as possible.
If you’re feeling very depressed, contact a GP or local mental health crisis team as soon as possible.
You can also call the Samaritans, free of charge, on 116 123 for confidential support, 24/7.