Bipolar falls under the category of mood disorders. Bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression) is a serious long-term mental illness. Most people experience normal ups and downs, but in bipolar disorder the range of moods are more extreme and characterised by cycles of depressive and manic episodes that can last for several weeks. Cycles can be rapid i.e. the person experience a number of episodes a year or even ultra rapid where episodes can alternate over days not weeks.

It is not clear on what causes bipolar exactly, although it is believed a number of things can trigger an episode such as extreme stress, overwhelming problems, life changing events, genetic and chemical factors.


  • Approximately 1.3 million people in the UK have a diagnosis of bipolar.
  • Bipolar is one of the most common long-term conditions with almost as many people living with bipolar as there are people with cancer.
  • Diagnosis, on average can take many years. The UK average is 9.5 years before it is correctly identified.
  • Bipolar increases an individuals risk to suicide by u to 20 times.


Symptoms vary depending upon the mood the person is experiencing. People with bipolar have episodes of:

  • Depression – feeling low, lack of energy, poor concentration, loss of interest in things, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, thoughts about death.
  • Mania – feeling extremely happy, have lots of energy ambitious plans and ideas, spend large amounts of money on things you cannot afford and would not normally want, not feel like eating or sleeping, or become annoyed easily.

Some people may even experience psychosis, where they experience hallucinations or have grandiose illusions, e.g. may feel as though they have super powers, control nature etc.


  • Mood stabilisers to prevent episodes of depression and mania.
  • Talking therapies, which can help with depression.
  • Learning to recognise signs or triggers of an episode of depression or mania.
  • Lifestyle advice such as diet, exercise, sleep management and planning activities.

For more information on the treatment of bipolar please click the following links:

Bipolar UK National UK Charity

Recommendations | Bipolar disorder: assessment and management | Guidance | NICE

CG185 Full guideline (