Bipolar disorder | Manic Depression | What is it?

Bipolar disorder | Manic Depression | What is it?

Bipolar – sometimes known as manic depression – is a severe mental health illness characterised by significant mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows. The majority of individuals with bipolar experience alternating episodes of mania and depression.

Both males and females of any age and from any social or ethnic background can develop the illness. The symptoms can first occur and then reoccur when work, studies, family or emotional pressures are at their greatest. In women, it can also be triggered by childbirth or during the menopause.


The key to coping with bipolar is an early diagnosis, acceptance of the illness and adapting your lifestyle so you are in control of the symptoms as much as possible. Management of the illness can be achieved through strategies involving medication, health care, therapy, and self-management.

  1. 1% to 2% of the population experience a lifetime prevalence of bipolar and recent research suggests as many as 5% of us are on the bipolar spectrum.1, 2
  2. Bipolar also has a huge impact on family and friends.
  3. On average it takes 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis for bipolar in the UK and before bipolar is diagnosed there is a misdiagnosis an average of 3.5 times.3
  4. Bipolar increases the risk of suicide by 20 times.4
  5. The World Health Organisation identifies bipolar as one of the top causes of lost years of life and health in 15 to 44-year-olds .5
  6. Just 21% of people with a long-term mental health condition are in employment.6
  7. Compared to other health problems, treatment of bipolar is still badly affected by misunderstanding and stigma.

Bipolar affects every aspect of your life and your relationship. Family and friends can all be put under stress. This is why you need to get a correct diagnosis, accept treatment and start to learn how you can adapt your lifestyle to cope with the ups and downs.


Bipolar affects everyone differently and can be difficult to diagnose, but there are some common signs that can help you identify the illness. A mood scale – see our ‘Could mood swings mean bipolar?’ leaflet – will help you and your doctor understand your mood swings.

Take a completed mood scale with you to your next appointment with your doctor and tell them how you have been feeling over a period of time. If you feel comfortable you could complete the mood scale and see your doctor with someone close to you.

Sometimes your GP may refer you to a specialist – usually a psychiatrist. Diagnosis should always be undertaken by an appropriately trained medical professional. It is not advisable to self-diagnose.


Although much progress has been made in understanding bipolar and how it can be managed, research has still not led to either a consensus on the cause or a cure.

Some research suggests that there is, if not a known genetic link, then certainly an inherited predisposition to developing bipolar.

It is also known that stressful life events may often precede an episode of mania, hypomania or depression.

As our understanding of the function of the brain increases, more insights and more effective medication can be developed.

Woven cannot emphasise enough the importance of connecting with your local support groups, which you will easily find by using your search engine. Whether you have Bi-Polar Disorder or know someone who does.  These groups are invaluable, both for support, and also to gain vital, valuable information. Knowledge is power.

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If you need help now, would like to submit a question to Mrs T, or would want to drop us a note, feel free to get in touch.  We are here to help in any way that we can.

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