Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition which can affect thinking, energy, feelings and behaviour. Bipolar disorder can have a profound impact on every aspect of a person’s life, affecting their relationships, family and work life.
45,000 or 1 in 100 people have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in Ireland. A correct diagnosis is essential for successful treatment. It is characterised by periods of low (depressed) or high (elated) mood separated by periods of normal mood. One can lead a healthy and productive life once the illness is effectively treated.
How does it affect me?
Bipolar disorder usually involves two phases. If five or more of the below symptoms are present for a period of two weeks or more Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or mental health professional.
A depression phase:
- F eeling – sad, anxious, guilty
- E nergy – low energy, feeling tired or fatigued
- S leeping – under or over-sleeping, any change to normal sleep pattern
- T hinking – poor concentration, thoughts slowed down
- I nterest – loss of interest in hobbies, family or social life
- V alue – low self esteem
- A ches – physical aches and pains with no physical basis
- L ife – loss of interest in living, thinking about death, suicidal thoughts
An elation phase:
- F eeling – elated, enthusiastic, excited, angry, irritable or depressed
- E nergy – increased energy, over-talkative or over-active
- S leeping – reduced need for sleep, marked difficulty in getting to sleep
- T hinking – racing thoughts, ‘pressure in the head’, indecision, jumping from one topic to another, poor concentration
- I nterest – increased interest in pleasurable activities, new adventures, sex, alcohol, street drugs, religion, music or art
- V alue – high self-esteem, feel they can achieve anything.
- A ches – physical aches and pains disappear
- L ife – thinking that they can live forever, taking reckless physical risks or, if angry or distressed, can have suicidal thoughts
What can I do?
If you think you have bipolar disorder, Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or a mental health professional. This will help you to get a correct diagnosis and decide which approach to treatment is best for you.
If you believe a loved one may be experiencing bipolar disorder, we suggest you access our information specifically for relatives here.
Overview of Aware’s Services
Finding The Words: How to talk to your GP about your Mental Health
Bipolar Disorder Programme
Aware’s newest programme is the Living Well With Bipolar Disorder Programme. We are offering this programme in an online and in-person group setting. Click below to find out more.
Learning to cope
The most important thing to do is speak to a doctor or mental health professional in order to get a correct diagnosis. To find a GP in your area, contact the Irish College of General Practitioners on 01 676 3705.
- There are a number of treatment options available – lifestyle changes, talk therapies, medication or a combination of these. It is important to follow the treatment plan that has been put in place with you.
- Understanding is important. You can learn more from reputable sources like Aware. This will help you to recognise early warning signs and respond quickly
- Consider identifying one relative or friend who can be a ‘spotter’ for you, as it can be difficult, particularly with elations, to recognise that you are becoming unwell. Someone close can notice the shift in mood and ‘spot’ symptoms. Early recognition can ensure swift treatment and minimise disruption and duration of the episode.
- Using a mood diary can be useful, especially between doctor’s visits. It will help you to spot patterns and possible triggers.
- Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, getting enough rest and practising self-care can also be very beneficial.
Above all, do not try to deal with bipolar disorder on your own.
Reach out to family and friends, use the support that is available.
Keep support line numbers close to hand and consider attending a support group. Talking to someone who understands can bring reassurance and enable you to learn new coping skills
Aware has a number of free services that offer support and information, find out more >>
Talks on bipolar disorder
If you would like to do some further reading, please see Aware’s Recommended Reading List.
Living well with bipolar disorder
Problems with detection and diagnosis
Treatment and preventing relapse
Feeding your mental health
Sleep well to live well
Brain imaging in bipolar disorder