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If you’re worried about acting on thoughts of suicide, or you’ve harmed yourself, you can call 999, go straight to A&E or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 to talk.

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem which affects your mood. Individuals who have bipolar are likely to experience: manic/hypomanic episodes (where you feel high), depressive episodes (where you may feel low) and sometimes you may experience psychotic symptoms (during manic or depressed episodes). The variations in your mood can be very distressing and have a huge impact on your life, but it is important to remember you are not alone.

With Bipolar, there are three main types of episodes that present;

Manic/Hypomanic episodes.
During this episode you may feel: happy/euphoric, uncontrollably excited, irritable, easily distracted (like your thoughts are racing in your head/ or you struggle to concentrate), confident, adventurous, untouchable and invincible. You may behave: more active than usual, excessively talking (and talking fast), saying/acting out of character or inappropriately, lack of sleep, misusing alcohol/drugs, taking serious risks with your safety, and spending money excessively.

Hypomanic episodes are fairly similar, but key differences include: life feeling more manageable, for example the episodes may last for shorter periods, and it doesn’t include any psychotic symptoms.

Depressed episodes.
During this type of episode you may feel: down, upset, tired, lethargic, have limited interest in things that you used to enjoy, or finding lack of enjoyment in general, lowered self-esteem, guilt, hopelessness, worthless, be agitated/tense and possibly feel suicidal. You may behave: eating too little or too much, not doing the activities you usually enjoy, trouble sleeping/ or excessive sleeping, being withdrawn from people and society, being less physically active than usual, or attempts at suicide.

Psychotic Symptoms.
These can include: delusions (for example, paranoia) and hallucinations (such as hearing voices). Not everyone with the diagnosis of bipolar will experience the psychotic symptoms.

Mixed Episodes: are when you experience symptoms of depression and mania/hypomania at the same time or quickly one after the other. This can make it harder to work out what you are feeling, harder to identity what help you need, and it may feel even more challenging/exhausting to manage your emotions.

No one knows what causes bipolar, however research suggests it could be a combination of various factors including; childhood trauma, stressful life events, brain chemistry and genetic inheritance.

How can I help myself?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – suggests that treatment for bipolar disorder should include both talking treatments and medication. The treatment you will be offered is usually based on what types of episodes you are experiencing, so it is always worth visiting your GP at the start. There are also a range of talking treatments that you may be offered for example, cognitive-behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy.

There are also a few self-care tips which you can use to help yourself to increase your wellbeing. Try to get to know your moods, it will be very useful if you can try to learn your triggers. For example, if you often feel high after a late night or low when facing a deadline, it can help to recognise these patterns. Then you can take action to avoid the trigger, minimising its impact. It can also help you to identify the warning signs, so you can ensure you have a support system in place. You should also try to look after your physical health, make sure you try to get enough sleep, eat healthily and exercise regularly.

Finally, it is important to have or build a healthy stable support network, as this can be very valuable in helping you manage your mood.  A support network might include friends, family or other people in your life who you trust and are able to talk to. The kind of support they may be able to offer includes: being able to recognise signs that you may be manic or depressed, helping you look after yourself by keeping a routine or thinking about diet, listening and understanding, helping you reflect on and remember what has happened during a manic episode and helping you plan for a crisis.

Useful Contacts:

Bipolar UK

Support for people with bipolar disorder (including hypomania) and their families and friends. They also have a supportive online community. Feel free to give them a call 0333 323 3880.

The Bipolar Foundation

They provide more information about the disorder, diagnosis and treatment. The bipolar foundation also have a number of useful online resources to choose from.

Samaritans

(Freephone 116 123 – 24 hours, 7 days a week) volunteers listen in confidence to anyone in any type of emotional distress, without judging or telling people what to do.

SANE

They provide emotional support to anyone affected by mental health problems, including families, friends and carers. SANE’s mental health support services are confidential. They offer non-judgemental and compassionate emotional support. A team of mental health professionals and trained volunteers create a space where you feel safe to talk about things that are most affecting you. They will also make time so we can think together about the options available to you.

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