Understanding Bipolar Disorder

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The main symptoms of bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) are episodes of extreme highs and lows, which can last for several weeks.

Everyone can experience mood fluctuations, but when someone’s mood and behaviour changes last for days or weeks, and cause difficulty with daily routines and social interactions, then it might be that they are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder.

What Does it Feel Like?
People with bipolar disorder experience intense emotional states that alter their mood, energy, and ability to function. And typically occur during distinct periods of time – these mood episodes are known as manic/hypomanic (abnormally happy or irritable mood) or depressive (sad mood). People with bipolar disorder generally have periods of neutral mood as well. It can disrupt a person’s relationships with loved ones and cause difficulty in working or going to school.

What Causes it?
Bipolar disorder commonly runs in families: 80 to 90 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder have a relative with bipolar disorder or depression. Environmental factors such as stress, sleep disruption, and drugs and alcohol may trigger mood episodes in vulnerable people. Though the specific causes of bipolar disorder within the brain are unclear, an imbalance of brain chemicals is believed to lead to dysregulated brain activity. The average age of onset is 25 years old.

What can help?
Successful treatment of bipolar disorder depends on a combination of factors – mood stabilising medication alone is not enough. In order to get the most out of treatment, it’s important to educate yourself about the illness, communicate with your doctors and therapists, have a strong support system, and help yourself by making healthy lifestyle choices that may reduce your need for medication.

Since bipolar disorder can cause serious disruptions in a person’s daily life and create a stressful family situation, family members may also benefit from professional help and support groups. From these sources, families can learn strategies for coping, and participating actively in their loved one’s treatment.

If left untreated, this condition may worsen with age. As time goes on, a person may experience episodes that are more severe and more frequent than when symptoms first appeared.

Please, if you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, make an appointment with your GP who can assist in finding a treatment option to help you.
Listed below are links to support on our website if you need to talk.

Caithness Mental Health Support Group – https://hereforcaithness.org/service/caithness-mental-health-support-group/

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