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Bipolar Disorder: What is it?

Bipolar Disorder: What is it?

In recent years, mental health has become something of a craze. Whilst the older generation may have never heard of social anxiety or PTSD, those in their teenage years seem to throw these terms around without little thought. We have come a long way in medicine, and are now more aware than ever of our own psychological well-being. Yet, in the list of disorders that seems to get longer by the minute, bipolar disorder is often over-looked.

You may have heard of bipolar disorder, could have a vague idea of its symptoms due to the rather lacklustre representation of it in various TV shows, but I doubt many have given it a second thought. Originally called ‘manic depressive illness’, bipolar disorder is a condition that causes extreme lows and highs in terms of mood. These mood swings are referred to as depression and mania, respectively.

Periods of depression may include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in daily life
  • Forgetfulness
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you are currently experiencing the above symptoms, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you’re in the US, or visit this website:

Periods of mania may include:

  • Feelings of excessive euphoria, restlessness, and irritability
  • Racing speech and thoughts
  • High amounts of energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Aggressive or risky behaviour
  • Excessive spending or drug/alcohol abuse

Periods of depression within bipolar disorder often last for an average of six months, although they may last longer, whereas periods of mania tend to last for relatively shorter amounts of time (between two weeks and five months). People with bipolar disorder may also experience delusions, such as hearing voices in their head. If these symptoms apply to you then please visit your GP for more information.

The causes of bipolar disorder vary greatly from genetic to environmental. For almost half of patients the disease runs in the family, however no single gene has been found as responsible for it. Chemical imbalance is also suggested as a cause, but many believe that stressful situations are the main trigger of bipolar disorder. These situations may include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, the death of a loved one, or the breakdown of a relationship. Medication, such as anti-depressants, can also trigger mania.

One in five patients suffering from bipolar disorder commit suicide, and this is why it is so important to raise awareness, especially for teenagers. Many may be living with bipolar disorder and not even know it, resorting to self-harm or drug abuse as an outlet for their pain. It has been suggested that some adolescents with manic depression may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder, and that in 20% of cases those with major depression have gone on to develop bipolar disorder.

If you have been affected by bipolar disorder, whether directly or indirectly, please feel free to comment below sharing your experience. If you believe that someone you know may be suffering from bipolar disorder then contact your GP for guidance.


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