Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings—from emotional highs (mania) to lows (depression). When you’re manic, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. When you’re depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless, and lose interest in most activities. These mood swings can affect your sleep, activity, judgment, and ability to think clearly.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, it’s important to know that you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. Usually, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counselling.
What is normal?
We all have our ups and downs, but with bipolar disorder these peaks and valleys are more severe. More than occasional mood changes, bipolar disorder involves serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behaviour. The cycles of bipolar disorder can last for days, weeks, or months.
What are common signs and symptoms?
The symptoms of the two parts of bipolar disorder are very different from each other.
Symptoms of depression:
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief
- Losing interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Avoiding other people
- Sleeping more (or less) than usual
- Eating more (or less) than usual
- Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling extremely irritable and angry
- Feeling guilty all the time
- Low energy, feeling very tired
- Lost desire for sex
- Feeling worthless, helpless, or hopeless
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms of mania:
- Excessively high or elevated mood
- Extremely irritable or angry
- Optimistic about everything, even when others aren't
- Making quick decisions without thinking them through
- Spending money more quickly
- Changing sexual habits
- Racing thoughts
- High levels of energy
- Talking all the time or more quickly than usual
- Sleeping less
- Extremely short attention span
- Seeing or hearing things that other people don’t
Should I seek help?
Often, people with bipolar disorder don't recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones, so they don't get the treatment they need. If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, or if you see them in someone you love, see a doctor or mental health professional for help.
If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviours, seek emergency treatment immediately—call 911 or the Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis line at 1-888-429-8167.
Bipolar disorder doesn't get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health professional with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control.
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