February 8, 2024

Bipolar Disorder and how we can help

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a condition predominantly affecting mood. People with bipolar disorder tend to experience periods of low mood (also known as depression) and periods of elevated/high mood (also known as mania). Of course it is a perfectly healthy part of the human condition to experience a range of moods, however in bipolar disorder moods can swing from an extreme high to an extreme low in a way which affects day-to-day functioning.

Bipolar disorder has two subtypes, bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I disorder is diagnosed when a person has experienced at least one episode of mania that lasts longer than 1 week; the majority of people (around 90%) will also have periods of depression. Bipolar II disorder is diagnosed when a person has had at least 1 period of significant depression and at least 1 period of hypomania (similar to mania but milder).

Changes in mood in bipolar disorder can last for several weeks or months at a time and are frequently severe enough to interfere with daily life. Some people find that they cycle between these two extremes with periods of ‘normal’ mood between episodes, others don’t experience a period of ‘normal’ mood between episodes. It is also possible to experience a mixed state where symptoms of both depression and mania are present simultaneously. The symptoms during an episode can also affect energy and activity levels as well as ability to function. Bipolar disorder is considered to be a lifelong diagnosis, however there are many ways in which people are able to manage their mood.

Actions that can help

  1. Start a mood diary and make a daily record of how high or low your mood is, for example on a scale of 0-10. By recording your mood you may be able to detect changes early and identify triggers.
  2. Where possible, try to address stressful situations in your life and engage in activities to alleviate their impact (such as meditation, mindfulness and asking for support).
  3. If you notice your mood is starting to become high or low, it can help to try to maintain your usual routine, for example eating and going to bed/getting up at regular times.
  4. Identify a trusted person who you can reach out to when you start to notice mood changes - getting help early on can minimise the impact of an episode low or high mood.
  5. Many organisations have self-help or support groups you can join. Sharing ideas and with others who have had similar experiences can be helpful for managing mood.


As bipolar is characterised by changes in mood, the symptoms can vary depending on which mood state is being experienced.

Symptoms of a depressive episode can include:

  • feeling sad, hopeless or irritable
  • lacking energy
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • loss of interest in everyday activities
  • feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
  • feelings of guilt and despair
  • self-doubt
  • lack of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • waking up early
  • suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of a manic episode can 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
  • Having unusual ideas or seeing and hearing things that other people cannot
  • Not being able to sleep or thinking you do not need to
  • Not eating
  • Doing things that are out of character 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


There are many effective treatments for bipolar disorder, these could include lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medication. The most important thing to remember is that what works for you may not be exactly the same as what works for someone else and a combination of different treatments is sometimes recommended to help stay well.

How to get help

The first step in getting help is to speak to someone about your experiences. This could be someone you trust, such as a family member or a friend who can help you to access professional support. If you are struggling with your mood and think you may be depressed or have bipolar disorder you should talk to your GP who can direct you to experts such as psychologists and psychiatrists. You may also want to talk to a charity such as MIND who will be able to provide you with more information about how to get help.

If you do have more questions, you can also contact us at hello@helloself.com to talk about what you’re experiencing.

Bipolar Disorder - Five facts

  1. Bipolar disorder is made up of two subtypes which describe differences in how symptoms are experienced.
  2. Lifetime prevalence of Bipolar stands between 1-2%.
  3. On average it has taken 10.5 years to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, however this is improving as people become more aware of the condition and its symptoms.
  4. There are effective psychological therapies to help people to reduce the likelihood and impact of relapse.
  5. A number of high-profile people including Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and Russell Brand have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Recent posts

April Showers Don't Have to Bring You Down: Taming Tech Stress in 2024

Chronic pain,

Chronic Pain and how we can help


Living with bipolar - common misconceptions