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What is bipolar disorder? What it is, what the symptoms are, and how it starts

A person with bipolar disorder lives a life of instability, having mood swings that leave them feeling euphoric one moment, to utterly depressed the next.

It most regularly develops between the ages of 15-19 and it affects one in 100 people in the UK.

During a high phase, the person may engage in high risk ventures, spend money they don’t have, and start a number of grandiose and ambitious plans. Some people, in the moment, will see this as a good experience.

In a depressed phase they may feel worthless, lethargic and may even feel suicidal. Bipolar disorder is an extremely difficult condition to live with.

Here’s what you need to know about bipolar

What is bipolar disorder?

A person suffering from bipolar disorder has extreme mood swings that makes their life one of distressing swings.

Bipolar involves extreme lows

The depression period involves feelings of worthlessness whilst the period of mania involves having lots of energy, ambitious plans and unworkable ideas.

Speaking rapidly, eschewing sleep and food, and getting annoyed easily are also features of this episode according to the NHS.

The symptoms of bipolar can be serious, and affects areas of your life such as school, relationships and work.

While everyone has variance in their mood, what makes bipolar so distressing is the severity of the mood swings, and the way in which they interfere with that person’s life.

During a high period people act recklessly

Depressive symptoms

When in a depressive period, a person may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Overwhelming sadness
  • A feeling of pervasive guilt and that everything that goes wrong is their default
  • Tiredness and apathy
  • An inability to enjoy things that usually they enjoy
  • Fluctuations in weight
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Anxiety is a feature of a depressive episode

Manic symptoms

When someone is having a manic episode it consists of:

  • Feeling wired and restless
  • Feeling euphoric
  • Feeling that they are unstoppable and can do anything
  • An increased likelihood of risky behaviour such as risky spending and sexual promiscuity
  • Supreme self-confidence
  • Being distracted

What causes bipolar disorder?

There is not one single cause for bipolar disorder and it is much more likely to range from a range of interacting factors such as genes, biology and envionrment.

If someone has a family member with bipolar they are more likely to develop it whilst a traumatic event, mental stress and being abused could also contribute to the development of bipolar disorder.

Finally, neurotransmitters can often be attributed to the development of many major mood disorders of which bipolar is one.

One in 100 people in the UK suffer from bipolar

How to cope with bipolar disorder

The modern world is becoming increasingly switched on to mental health issues, and shows more sympathy for those suffering, and the NHS has offers lots of options for seeking treatment for bipolar disorder.

These include:

  • Changing your lifestyle by doing exercise, sleeping properly, eating healthily and partaking in activities that give you joy and a sense of achievement
  • Talking therapy which is good for depression and improving your relationships
  • Going to your GP and being put on medication which can either be preventive, in the form of mood stabilisers, or they can treat the symptoms of mania and depression when they are happening
  • Recognising the triggers and signs of an incoming episode
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There are ways of helping to manage the condition

Who is affected?

One in 100 people will be diagnosed with the condition during their lives, which includes men and women from all manner of backgrounds. It develops between the ages of 15 and 19 and it is extremely rare for it develop after the age of 40.

The severity of the condition depends on the person and for some people they have countless episodes, whilst others only have a couple in their lifetime and are stable in between.

For anyone suffering from mental health issues then the Samaritans are a great organization to call, free of charge, on 116 123, and operators are available to talk 24/7. Alternatively, visit the Samaritans website or email


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