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?
- What can I do?
- Learning to cope with bipolar disorder
- Talks on bipolar disorder
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 and marked difficulty in getting off 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
If you think you have bipolar disorder, Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or mental health professional in order to get a correct diagnosis and decide on the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
If you believe a loved one may be experiencing depression, we suggest you access our information specifically for relatives here.
Dr Lisa Lawless discusses how you prepare for your consultation, questions to ask your GP, what your GP can do for you, options for treatment/referral and how you can help yourself.
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 – medication, talk therapies, lifestyle changes or a combination of these. It is important to follow the treatment plan that has been put in place with you
- Understanding bipolar disorder is important and can make it easier to manage and minimise its impact. 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 associated with your bipolar disorder
- 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, and avail of the help and support available. Keep support line numbers close to hand and consider attending a support group. Talking to someone who understands the condition can bring reassurance and enable you to learn new coping skills
Talking through concerns with someone who understands can also be a help, Aware has a number of free services that offer support and information, find out more here.
Dr Patrick McKeon, Consultant Psychiatrist, St. Patrick’s University Hospital provides an informative lecture about understanding bipolar disorder, the signs and symptoms, the causes, the impact on people’s lives, treatment & the skills needed for staying well.
Dr McKeon explores "Bipolar Disorder: what it is and what to do". How it can be recognised? Why a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder is sometimes missed? The purpose and type of medication prescribed to treat Bipolar disorder and lifestyle management at a practical everyday level.
Breda Dooley, Psychologist, talks about how to support a person with depression or bipolar disorder.
Dr Patrick McKeon, Consultant Psychiatrist, St. Patrick’s University Hospital discusses how you prevent relapse from bipolar disorder.
Dr Dara Cannon, BSc, HDip, Phd, discusses how brain imaging can help further research into Bipolar Disorder.
If you would like to do some further reading, please see Aware's Recommended Reading List.