Bipolar Disorder

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What is a Bipolar Disorder?

It used to be called ‘manic depressive illness’. As this phrase suggests, you have severe mood swings. These usually last several weeks or months and are far beyond the emotional ups and downs that most of us experience. They can be:1

What is Bipolar?

How common is bipolar disorder?

About 1 in every 50 adults will have bipolar disorder at some point in their life. It usually starts between the ages of 15 to 25 – and rarelyafter the age of 50

What causes bipolar disorder?

We don’t understand this well, but research suggests that1:

  • Bipolar disorder seems to happen in families where there is a history of mental health problems3.
  • There may be a problem with the brain systems which control our moods – this is why medications can often help bipolar disorder.
  • Mood swings can be brought on by stressful experiences.

So – genes, disturbances in brain function, life events and stresses all seem to play a part.

Getting help for bipolar disorder

Who will I see?

You may see your GP at first, particularly if you have a depressive episode. But, if they make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, they will have to refer you to a specialist – a psychiatrist. NICE guidance suggests that mood-stabilisers need to be started by a specialist, even if your care is later taken over by a GP.

When you see a psychiatrist, you will also meet other members of the community mental health team (CMHT). They will be able to help with emotional support, information, psychological interventions, and help with sorting out practical matters.

Once any medication you are taking seems to established and effective, your GP can take over most of your care, although they will usually want you to stay in touch with a psychiatrist and the CMHT.

Medications for bipolar disorder

There are some things that can help to control mood swings so that they stop short of becoming full-blown episodes of mania or depression. These are mentioned below, but medication is still often needed to: 

  • keep your mood stable (prophylaxis)
  • treat a manic or depressive episode.

Disclaimer

This resource provides information, not advice.  

The content in this resource is provided for general information only. It is not intended to, and does not, amount to advice which you should rely on. It is not in any way an alternative to specific advice. 

You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in this resource.

If you have questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider without delay.  

If you think you are experiencing any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or other professional healthcare provider.  

Although we make reasonable efforts to compile accurate information in our resources and to update the information in our resources, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in this resource is accurate, complete or up to date. 

How to manage bipolar disorder:

Bipolar Disorder + Drugs + Alcohol:

Bipolar Disorder: The Ultimate Guide

Written in a highly-accessible question and answer format, this comprehensive and compassionate guide draws on the latest research, a broad range of expert opinion, numerous real-life voices and personal experiences from people with bipolar. With a list of useful resources, it is both the perfect first port of call and a reference bible you can refer to time and time again.

From how to recognize the symptoms to how to explain to a child that their parent has been diagnosed, first cousins Amanda and Sarah – who have four close family members diagnosed with the condition – explore and explain absolutely everything that someone with bipolar disorder (and those who live with and love them) needs to know.

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong challenge–but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Find the science-based information you need in the revised third edition of this indispensable guide.

Trusted authority Dr. David J. Miklowitz shares proven strategies for managing your illness or supporting a loved one with the disorder.

Learn specific steps to cope with mood episodes, reduce recurrences, avoid misdiagnosis, get the most out of treatment, resolve family conflicts, and make lifestyle changes to stay well.

Updated throughout, the third edition has a new chapter on kids and teens; the latest facts on medications and therapy, including important advances in personalized care; and expanded coverage of the bipolar II subtype. It features boxes on complementary and alternative treatments and provides downloadable practical tools.

Dual Diagnosis Bipolar Resources

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