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Bipolar Disorder: Just the facts

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition causing moods to swing from one extreme to the other, unlike simple mood swings these can be very severe changes and last for a few days or weeks at a time.

Someone with bipolar disorder experiences periods of both:

  • Depression: feeling very low and lethargic
  • Mania: feeling very high and overactive

The symptoms of bipolar disorder are different depending on which mood the person is experiencing.

Symptoms of a depressive episode can include:

If you’re feeling suicidal, seek urgent help from a GP, Samaritans on 116 123, NHS 111, or 999 in an emergency.

You can find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline here.

Symptoms of mania can include:

During a manic episode, it’s also common to:

  • not feel like eating or sleeping
  • talk quickly
  • become easily annoyed or irritated

Just because you have one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you definitely have bipolar disorder. It’s important to speak to a GP to get a diagnosis.

Living with bipolar disorder

The differences in mood caused by bipolar disorder can seriously affect a person’s everyday life, but treatments can be prescribed such as:

  • Medicine that works to stabilise mood, preventing serious swings of depression and mania
  • Medicine to treat the symptoms of depression and mania when they occur
  • Talking therapies
  • Lifestyle advice, such as improving diet, exercise and sleep

A GP may also refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or a specialist psychiatrist.

Bipolar disorder is usually a long-term condition, but prescribed treatments mixed with the following self-help techniques can limit the impact it has on everyday life:

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.

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