Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behaviour. People who have bipolar disorder will experience episodes in which they feel overly elated and energised and other periods of feeling hopeless and tired.
Bipolar disorder has all of the same characteristics of depression, but is also characterised by manic periods of time during which the person feels elated, energised, grandiose, angry or irritable, in between the periods of low mood, sadness and lack of energy.
These moods swing from one polarity of depression and feeling down, to the opposite polarity of feeling high or excited and/or irritable, and energised, in cycles that come and go over time. Symptoms of mania can include: elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty maintaining attention, increase in goal-directed activity, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. These manic symptoms significantly impact a person’s daily living.
The pattern of these mood swings will differ in the way they present in each individual according to the type and severity of the symptoms, the length of time the cycle lasts and the time between the cycles.
If left untreated bipolar disorder in a depressive episode can result in feelings of despair and hopelessness, increasing isolation and powerlessness and eventually suicidal thinking/behaviour, while a manic or hypomanic episode can lead to many problematic consequences ranging from impulsive/poor decision making to delusions, hallucinations and psychosis.
It is crucial to seek support and treatment before a crisis develops.