Chronic Conditions

Bipolar Disorder

I experience extreme changes in mood

Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depression. While we have all experienced mood swings to a certain extent, persons with bipolar disorder experience cycles of extreme moods swing, i.e., of feeling low (depressed) and high (mania). When a person experiences the low, the symptoms are similar to that of clinical depression. When a person experiences the high, they may be displaying elevated/irritable and/or arousal of energy level. This is more common known as mania. 

Am I having bipolar disorder?

If you are having bipolar disorder, you will experience symptoms of depression and mania at different times. Common symptoms of mania (abnormally elevated mood, feeling 'high'): 

  •  Overactivity 
  •  Irritability 
  •  Increase in energy levels 
  •  Impulsive, taking unnecessary risks or being reckless 
  •  Increased sex drive. 
  •  Increased spending 
  •  Racing thoughts/Pressured speech 
  •  Inflated esteem 
  •  Grandiose ideas 
  •  Hallucinations and/or delusions 
  •  Decreased need for sleep 

 Common symptoms of depression: 

  •  Loss of interest in pleasurable activities and daily routine 
  •  Worrying and negative thinking 
  •  Difficulty in concentrating 
  •  Weight loss or weight gain (without dieting) 
  •  Irritability, agitation and fatigue 
  •  Changes in sleep patterns 
  •  Feelings of hopelessness 

Why do I develop bipolar disorder?

The development of bipolar disorder is often a result of an interaction of factors that include: Biological 

  •  Having a family member diagnosed with mood disorders increases your risk of having bipolar disorder, as there is strong evidence to support a close link between the illness and familial ties. 
  •  An imbalance in the chemicals naturally occurring in the brain which also affects mood regulation. 

 Environmental factors and stress 

  •  Environmental factors (eg, distressing life events) and stress are often considered as contributing factors in triggering the illness.    

   


How can I detect and treat my condition?

It is normal for most of us to go through life with some ups and downs. However, if you experience some of the symptoms listed above or feel unsure, do see a mental health professional for an assessment. There are two major forms of treatment for bipolar disorder that may be used individually or in combination. They are:

  • Psychosocial therapies which offer strategies to cope with life stresses and the low feelings.
  • Medication – Mood stabilisers are the most common medication used to treat bipolar disorder, as it is often associated with imbalances in the brain chemicals.

How can I help my friend or relative who has bipolar disorder?

  • Encouraging them to maintain a healthy lifestyle (i.e. to get enough sleep, exercise and eat well).
  • Taking them out and keep in touch with them - as well as encouraging close friends and family members to do the same.
  • Set reasonable boundaries or rules and sticking to them
  • Spend time to talk with them about their experiences
  • Indicate that you've noticed a change in their behaviour
  • Contact a mental health professional or crisis team if they become a threat to themselves or others
  • Learn about their way of coping and ask them about the sort of support that they find most useful
  • NOT pressuring them to "act normally" or "get over it"
  • NOT labelling and avoiding them as "downer", "lazy" or "attention-seeking"  

  1. If I have bipolar disorder, can i still go to work?
Yes you can. With treatment, many people are able to hold steady jobs. Bipolar disorder can affect anyone, not just you. In fact, there are many famous people with this disorder who have been successful such as Carrie Fisher, Mel Gibson and Ted Turner.
  2. Is there a test to tell me if I have, or may inherit, bipolar disorder?
Currently, no test can tell a person if he is at risk of developing bipolar disorder. It is unlikely that a single gene will be discovered that is responsible for the illness in all people with bipolar disorder.
  3. Does bipolar disorder only affect my mood?
Bipolar disorder also affects your energy level, judgement, memory, concentration, appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive, and self-esteem. Additionally, bipolar disorder has been linked to anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, migraines, and high blood pressure.