Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings. These can range from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Episodes of mania and depression often last for several weeks or months.

 

Depression

During a period of depression, your symptoms may include:

  • feeling sad, hopeless or irritable most of the time 

  • lacking energy 

  • difficulty concentrating and remembering things 

  • loss of interest in everyday activities 

  • feelings of emptiness or worthlessness 

  • feelings of guilt and despair 

  • feeling pessimistic about everything 

  • self-doubt  

  • lack of appetite 

  • difficulty sleeping 

  • waking up early 

  • suicidal thoughts

 

Mania

The manic phase of bipolar disorder may include:

  • feeling very happy, elated or overjoyed 

  • talking very quickly 

  • feeling full of energy 

  • feeling self-important 

  • feeling full of great new ideas and having important plans 

  • being easily distracted 

  • being easily irritated or agitated 

  • being delusional, having hallucinations and disturbed or illogical thinking 

  • not feeling like sleeping 

  • not eating 

  • doing things that often have disastrous consequences – such as spending large sums of money on expensive and sometimes unaffordable items 

  • making decisions or saying things that are out of character and that others see as being risky or harmful 

 

Patterns of depression and mania

 

If you have bipolar disorder, you may have episodes of depression more regularly than episodes of mania, or vice versa.

Between episodes of depression and mania, you may sometimes have periods where you have a “normal” mood.

The patterns aren’t always the same and some people may experience:

  • rapid cycling – where a person with bipolar disorder repeatedly swings from a high to low phase quickly without having a “normal” period in between 

  • mixed state – where a person with bipolar disorder experiences symptoms of depression and mania together; for example, overactivity with a depressed mood 

If your mood swings last a long time but aren’t severe enough to be classed as bipolar disorder, you may be diagnosed with cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder).