45,000 or 1 in 100 people have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in Ireland.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition which can affect thinking, energy, feelings and behaviour. Bipolar can have a profound impact on every aspect of a person’s life, affecting their relationships, family and work life. It is characterised by periods of low (depressed) or high (elated) mood separated by periods of normal mood. One can lead a healthy and productive life once the illness is effectively treated.
How does it affect me?
Bipolar disorder usually involves two phases, a depression phase and an elation phase. If five or more of the below symptoms are present for a period of two weeks or more Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or mental health professional.
- A Depression Phase
During a depression phase you may notice some of the below symptoms:
- Feeling: sad, anxious, guilty
- Energy: low energy, tired or fatigued
- Sleep: under or over sleeping, any change to normal sleep pattern
- Thinking: poor concentration, thoughts slowed down
- Interest: loss of interest in hobbies, family or social life
- Values: low self esteem
- Aches: physical aches and pains with no physical basis
- Life: loss of interest in living, thinking about death, suicidal thoughts
- An Elation Phase
During an elation phase you may notice some of the below symptoms:
- Feeling: elated, enthusiastic, excited, angry, irritable or depressed
- Energy: increased energy, over-talkative or over-active
- Sleep: reduced need for sleep and marked difficulty in going to sleep
- Thinking: racing thoughts, ‘pressure in the head’, indecision, jumping from one topic to another, poor concentration
- Interest: increased interest in pleasurable activities, new adventures, sex, alcohol, street drugs, religion, music or art
- Values: high self-esteem, feel they can achieve anything
- Aches: physical aches and pains disappear
- Life: thinking that they can live forever but can take reckless physical risks. If angry or distressed, can have suicidal thoughts
What can I do?
If you think you have bipolar disorder, Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or mental health professional in order to get a correct diagnosis and decide on the most appropriate treatment plan for you. If you believe a loved one may be experiencing bipolar disorder, we suggest
you access our information specifically for relatives on www.aware.ie.
Learning to cope with bipolar disorder
- There are a number of treatment options available – medication, talk therapies, lifestyle changes or a combination of these. It is important to follow the treatment plan that has been put in place with you.
- Understanding bipolar disorder is important and can make it easier to manage and minimise its impact. You can learn more from reputable sources like Aware. This will help you to recognise early warning signs and respond quickly.
- Consider identifying one relative or friend who can be a ‘spotter’ for you, as it can be difficult, particularly with elations, to recognise that you are becoming unwell. Someone close can notice the shift in mood and ‘spot’ symptoms. Early recognition can ensure swift treatment and minimise disruption and duration of the episode.
- Using a mood diary can be useful, especially between doctor’s visits. It will help you to spot patterns and possible triggers associated with your bipolar disorder.
- Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, getting enough rest and practising self-care can also be very beneficial.
- Above all, do not try to deal with bipolar disorder on your own. Reach out to family and friends, and avail of the help and support available. Keep support line numbers close to hand and consider attending a support group. Talking to someone who understands the condition can bring reassurance and enable you to learn new coping skills.
Support Mail – email@example.com
Support & Self Care Groups – nationwide