Bipolar: Mood Swings or More …

Just a quick note, my blog is primarily based on personal views and experience, sometimes referring to research and some background information, with the aim of helping anyone who may be suffering, or know of anyone suffering from a mental health illness. I would welcome any advice and feedback on my blogs, or your personal thoughts on the topic.

In the past few years, many celebrities have chosen to reveal the mental health illnesses that they are living with – and so many have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This has actually led to an increased knowledge of such disorders, but understanding still lacks.

The common misconception with bipolar disorder is that anyone with the disorder simply suffers from mood swings. However, it’s much more than that. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depression) involves mood swings, with periods of mania and periods of depression. The disorder affects the life of anyone with it. It’s actually common for individuals with bipolar disorder being unable to distinguish their own personality from that of when they are manic or depressed, as they may not see their ‘true’ personality very often.

Statistics show that it affects around 1 in 100 adults, which is, in reality, a huge number! Diagnosis of the disorder is usually during teen years, or early 20’s, however, it can be later too. Bipolar disorder consists of periods of depression and mania. These can vary in length, often lasting for several weeks to months at a time. Symptoms that someone with bipolar disorder may experience are:

Depression symptoms can include:  

  • Psychological Symptoms:
    – Persistent low mood or sadness
    – Low self-esteem
    – Lack of confidence
    – Feelings of hopelessness
    – Lack of motivation
    – Loss of interest or pleasure
    – Feeling irritable and confused
    – Suicidal ideation or self-harming thoughts
  • Physical Symptoms:
    – Fatigue
    – Lack of energy
    – Weight loss or gain (commonly misconstrued symptom – weight gain is also common, not
    just weight loss)
    – Disturbed sleep or changes in sleeping patterns; frequent waking
    – Moving and/or speaking slowly
    – Aches and pains
    – Oversleeping/ lack of sleep
  • Social Symptoms:
    – Mood has a significant impact on social life, employment, and personal relationships
    – Lack of interest
    – Avoiding contact with others
    – Attempting to stay hidden from others
    – It should be said here, that social symptoms are not always obvious, many individuals can become experienced in ‘putting on a smile’ and hiding how they really feel.

Manic symptoms can include:

  • Elated or ecstatic mood
  • Being unable to sit still
  • Being unable to remain calm and quiet
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Lack of sleep
  • Over enthusiasm
  • Increased energy
  • Talking very quickly
  • Short attention span
  • Easily distracted
  • Being unable to hold in thoughts and feelings
  • Acting without thought
  • Can involve dangerous or risk associated activities

There can also be some psychotic symptoms experienced during severe manic or depressive episodes:

  • Hallucinations – hearing, seeing or feeling things that are not real (e.g. hearing voices)
  • Delusions – believing something, despite evidence to the contrary (e.g. paranoia)

There are two main types of bipolar. There is Bipolar I, where an individual experiences one or more manic episodes, or mixed episodes (a manic and depressive episode together). Bipolar II is where an individual experiences one or more severe depressive episodes, and at least one episode of hypomania (same symptoms as mania, but less severe).

There is no particular cause identified in the development of bipolar disorder, but it is believed that a number of factors contribute to the development of the disorder. There is reason to believe that bipolar disorder is linked to genetics, as the disorder tends to run in families. Chemical imbalances in the brain are also said to contribute to the development of bipolar disorder. Furthermore, a stressful event or situation can trigger the symptoms of a bipolar episode.

Treating bipolar disorder is a must as it can affect every part of your life if left untreated. Typically, individuals are started on some form of medication. There are several types of medication available, described as mood stabilisers. Lithium is a common long term medication used to treat episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression. Anticonvulsants are also long term mood stabilisers, used to treat episodes of mania. Antipsychotics are sometimes used to treat episodes of mania or hypomania; and antidepressants are sometimes used to treat depressive episodes. There are many different types of each of these medications, and the most suitable form for an individual is usually decided by the individual and their GP. However, there are side effects to medication, which would be discussed by your prescribing GP.

There are also forms of psychological treatments available for individuals with bipolar disorder. Psychoeducation may be offered, so that you are better able to understand the disorder in much greater detail. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be a helpful form of talking therapy. The therapy aims to look at how an individual thinks, and how this affects their behaviour. During sessions, individuals will also reflect on their bipolar episodes and try to come up with some coping mechanisms. CBT is found to be particularly helpful with depression. It is usually found to be a successful form of treatment, without any side effects. However, sometimes an individual’s symptoms can be so severe, that a form of medication may be needed in the first instance. Family therapy may also be available to individuals, and focuses on family relationships and encourages all members of the family to actively participate in the improvement of the individual’s mental health.

Furthermore, regular exercise is found to be effective for mild to moderate depression (whether it be a short walk, or a game of football). It is found to be very effective in elevating mood and increasing energy levels. It may also be helpful to connect with other people in similar situations to yourself.

I have written this particular blog simply to inform people about Bipolar Disorder, what it involves, and the forms of treatment available. I hope that this blog has been informative, and that people understand the disorder better. Help can be found from your GP; and further information about the condition can be found through these well-informed websites listed below:

Please do ask any questions or suggest any topics that you would like me to discuss – I’ll do my best to deliver! Thank you for reading!

Thank you to Samantha Zeven ( who let me use her fantastic artwork portrayal of bipolar disorder as the cover! 


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