Understanding Bipolar disorder

Bipolar NDIS

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterised by periods of elevated or irritable mood (mania or hypomania) and periods of depression. It can have a significant impact on a person's life, affecting their relationships, work, and overall well-being.

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that affects a person’s mood, energy, and activity levels. People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania or hypomania, characterized by elevated or irritable mood, increased energy and activity levels, and sometimes impaired judgment. They also experience periods of depression, characterized by low mood, decreased energy and activity levels, and difficulty functioning.

Early Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Mania or hypomania: Elevated or irritable mood, increased energy and activity levels, impulsive behaviour, grandiose ideas, and decreased need for sleep.
  • Depression: Low mood, decreased energy and activity levels, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Are You Born with Bipolar or Do You Develop It?

Bipolar disorder is thought to have a genetic component, but it is not fully understood. Some people may be predisposed to developing bipolar disorder due to a family history, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Bipolar disorder can start at any age, but it typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Children and older adults can also develop bipolar disorder, but it is less common.

Childhood trauma, such as abuse or neglect, can increase a person’s risk of developing bipolar disorder. Stressful events and traumatic experiences can trigger mood episodes and worsen symptoms in people with bipolar disorder.


What Can Make Bipolar Symptoms Worse?

Bipolar disorder is a complex and often challenging condition to manage, as it involves unpredictable mood swings that can range from extreme highs to severe lows. There are several factors that can exacerbate or worsen bipolar symptoms, making it even more difficult for individuals to manage their condition. Here are some of the key factors that can make bipolar symptoms worse:

Substance abuse

Substance abuse is a significant risk factor for individuals with bipolar disorder. Alcohol and drug use can trigger mood episodes and worsen symptoms, leading to greater instability and more frequent episodes. Substance abuse can also interfere with medications and other treatments, making it more challenging to manage the condition effectively.


High levels of stress can trigger mood episodes and worsen symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. Stressful events such as a job loss, relationship difficulties, or financial problems can trigger a depressive or manic episode, making it more difficult to manage the condition effectively.

Lack of sleep

Changes in sleep patterns or a lack of sleep can trigger mood episodes and worsen symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. Irregular sleep patterns can disrupt the body’s natural rhythms, making it more challenging to regulate mood and manage bipolar symptoms.

Other factors also include hormonal changes, medical changes and changes to medication. 

It’s important for individuals with bipolar disorder to work closely with a mental health professional to manage their condition effectively. By avoiding substance abuse, managing stress, maintaining regular sleep patterns, and adhering to a treatment plan, individuals with bipolar disorder can minimize the impact of these exacerbating factors on their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

How to help someone with Bipolar?

It is characterised by cycles of manic episodes and depressive episodes. If you know someone with bipolar disorder, there are several ways you can help provide bipolar support and improve their quality of life.

  • Supporting them: One of the most important ways you can help someone with bipolar disorder is by being there for them. This means listening to their concerns and offering emotional support. Let them know that you care about them and that you are there to help them through difficult times. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can make a big difference.
  • Educating yourself: Another way you can help is by learning about bipolar disorder. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through and how you can best support them. You can read books, attend support groups, or talk to a mental health professional for more information.
  • Encouraging treatment: Getting professional help is essential for managing bipolar disorder. Encourage your loved one to seek treatment and support them as they go through the process. This might involve helping them find a therapist or psychiatrist, reminding them to take their medication, or accompanying them to appointments.
  • Reducing stress: Stress can trigger mood episodes in people with bipolar disorder. You can help your loved one reduce stress by encouraging healthy habits such as exercise, good nutrition, and sleep. You can also help them avoid triggers such as substance use, chaotic environments, or high-pressure situations.
  • Being understanding: People with bipolar disorder may experience extreme mood swings, which can be difficult to manage. It’s important to be patient and understanding during mood episodes, and avoid judgment or criticism. Instead, offer empathy and support, and remind your loved one that their feelings are valid.

In summary, helping someone with bipolar disorder requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to support them through both good and bad times. By educating yourself about the condition, encouraging treatment, and offering emotional support, you can help your loved one manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.


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