Bipolar disorder was previously known as manic depression. Often those with bipolar disorder have mood swings between periods of depression and mania. The depressive period is often characterised by low mood and feelings of lethargy whilst mania typically presents itself as very overactive and feeling high.
The length that you experience each mood can vary with some lasting weeks. The period each mood lasts may mean that the neutral, normal state that the individual can experience may not appear as frequent. In other words, the two mood states can become more prominent.
Initially it may be thought that you have clinical depression, particularly if you haven’t experienced a manic period yet. This manic period can take a while to present itself. However, during the depressive period you can feel worthless, insignificant, useless or even suicidal. If you do, it is important to talk to someone.
During the manic period you can feel incredibly high, ambitious, and energetic. However this can mean that you spend a lot of money, more than you have, on things you may not want. It can also lead to not feeling like you want to eat or sleep whilst talking faster and becoming easily annoyed at little things. Additionally psychosis can be a factor in the manic stage.
The severity of the mood swings mean daily life would be affected. But there are many approaches to help combat this. You can get every day mood stabilisers which should prevent the manic and depressive swings, medication to treat the mania and depression when it happens, psychological interventions to combat the depression, lifestyle changes and learning the triggers. Although it is most likely that a combination would be used to get the best results.
Nobody knows what causes bipolar disorder but triggers for the episodes are thought to come from extreme stress, problems, and significant life changes. There’s also chemical and genetic factors which are thought to contribute.
As for who is affected, it seems that 1 in 100 adults are affected at some point. It mostly develops between 15 and 19 and not very often after the age of 40. No one is at a greater risk of developing as no background is more susceptible to it. It is also worth noting that there is no prescribed form or schedule the mood swings take and it may be that only a couple of swings are ever experienced.
Remember, talk to someone if you ever feel suicidal, low, or high.