Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder have episodes of…

  • depression – feeling very low and lethargic
  • mania – feeling very high and overactive
  • this depends on which mood they are experiencing.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are not like ordinary mood swings as each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or sometimes longer) and some people may not experience a “normal” mood very often.


People with bipolar disorder may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before they experience a manic episode (this can sometimes occur years later) after which time they may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
During an episode of depression, they may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you are feeling suicidal, please go to your nearest A&E department as soon as possible.
If you are feeling very depressed, speak to your GP, care co-ordinator or local mental health crisis team as soon as possible.
You can also call NHS 111 for an immediate assessment.



During a manic phase of bipolar disorder you can…


  • feel very happy
  • have lots of energy, have big ideas and make ambitious plans
  • spend large amounts of money on things you cannot afford and would not normally want

It is also common to…

  • not want to eat or sleep
  • to talk quickly
  • become annoyed very easily

You could feel very creative and view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive experience, however you could also experience symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that are not there or become convinced of things that are not true.

Living with bipolar disorder…


The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they have an impact on everyday life.

However, there are several options for treating bipolar disorder that can make a difference to your life.

They aim to control the effects of an episode and help someone with bipolar disorder to live their life as normally as possible.

The following treatment options are available…

  • medication to prevent episodes of mania and depression – these are known as mood stabilisers and you take them every day on a long-term basis
  • medication to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they occur
  • learn how to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
  • psychological treatment such as talking therapies, which can help you deal with depression and provides advice about how to improve your relationships
  • lifestyle advice – such as doing regular exercise, planning activities you enjoy that give you a sense of achievement, as well as advice on improving your diet and getting more sleep.

It is thought that using a combination of different treatment methods is the best way to control bipolar disorder.

Pregnancy and bipolar disorder… 

Bipolar disorder, like all other mental health problems, can worsen during pregnancy, however specialist help is available if you need it.

What causes bipolar disorder?


The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, although it is believed that a number of things can trigger an episode.

These include…

  • extreme stress
  • overwhelming problems
  • life-changing events
  • genetic and chemical factors

Who does it affect?


Bipolar disorder is fairly common, 1 in every 100 people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their life.

Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 15 and 19 and rarely develops after 40.

Both men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.

The pattern of mood swings in bipolar disorder varies a lot. For example, some people may only have a couple of bipolar episodes in their lifetime and are stable in between, while others will have many episodes.

Driving with bipolar disorder… 

If you have bipolar, it may affect your driving. You must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of your disorder.