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Bipolar: What to look for and what to do

Written by Josh Phillips Posted in Mental Illness

Bipolar: What to look for and what to do

Our moods always change. One minute we’re up, and the next, we’re down. Everyone’s like that. But sometimes the mood swings that everyone gets from time to time can go too far: someone can go from feeling giddy with joy to being unbearably sad, and back again. This can be a sign of mental illness, of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder where the person suffering from it swings back and forth, sometimes very rapidly or sometimes very slowly, between two very different moods or mental states, between depression and mania.

In the most severe cases, sufferers can experience hallucinations (imagining things that are not there as though they are) and delusions (believing things to be true which are not). In young people, especially, manic cycles can be characterised by irritability.

We’ve talked about depression before on this blog, but what about mania? What is mania, and what are its symptoms? Mania is characterised by very high levels of energy, and the manic person is usually irritable, agitated and restless. Other symptoms can include:

  • Mood may often not reflect the reality of the environment
  • Impulsive and grandiose actions, which can involve actions such as spending sprees
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech
  • Very easily distracted
  • Participation in risk taking behaviours, often with severe but unrecognized negative consequences
  • Much less sleep than normal but seemingly with no dip in energy levels
  • Strong sexual feelings, which may be acted on when not appropriate
  • Someone in a manic phase may have no insight into their behaviour and may act in a way that is very different from usual.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from bipolar disorder then you should consult your GP who will be able to tell you more about the condition and refer you to any treatment as necessary. If you think someone you know may be suffering from the disorder, then you need to offer them as much support as possible so that they feel they have someone they can turn to at a time of need.

Treatments can include medication and talking therapy, and there is also support available in your school or local community. Medication cannot cure bipolar disorder, but it can control its symptoms, and enable you to get back into better state of mind; sometimes treatment may be as simple as getting you into a routine, playing sports or developing hobbies, and just getting into an environment that makes it easier to feel more stable.

There are also a number of charities which can offer their support to you and your family, including Mind and Young Minds.

If you need someone to talk to, our advisers at TCHC can listen to you and help you to access support so you can manage your disorder.

About the Author

Josh Phillips

Josh Phillips interned with us for six weeks during his summer holidays while studying English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford. He has written reviews on shows for the Edinburgh Festival and has also represented his University College on the BBC's University Challenge.

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