Mind Your Mental Health 11: Bipolar Disorder




By Aisling O’Connor


Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood fluctuations ranging from severe depression to mania. Symptoms of depression include low mood, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, feeling anxious and/or irritable, indecisiveness, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, and in extreme cases feeling suicidal. Manic episodes of bipolar disorder features symptoms such as extreme happiness, feeling like one doesn’t need sleep, excessive energy, racing thoughts, increased sex drive and impulsiveness, taking more risks, feeling restless and over-estimating ones abilities. As always, support and treatments are available:


–          Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: CBT aims to identify unhealthy thoughts and feelings and changing them for positive ones. This can help one establish what sets off episodes and how to combat negative or destructive thoughts.


–          Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy: This is quite a mouthful but is a simple concept. IPSRT involves establishing routines and patterns. This includes regulating sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns. Regular patterns help mood management and prevent unanticipated situations arising and throwing one off balance. Making sure the home place is calm and organised will also ease mania.


–          Medication: bipolar disorder is treated with a number of medications. Mood stabilisers are used to establish a more balanced mood while anti-depressants may be taken in periods of depression, anti-anxiety medication helps with sleep.


–          Therapy and counselling: By going to therapy one can discuss how they feel and learn to cope with the symptoms as well as establishing why they feel the way they do.


–          Learn about the disorder: Being aware of the symptoms of bipolar disorder and ensuring close friends and family are informed will help one to notice if one is entering a period of depression or mania early on and then establish a coping mechanism.


–          Talk: It’s important to talk to friends and family as well as professionals about mood fluctuations and how one feels. Partaking in support groups can also be beneficial through sharing experiences with others who have experienced the same thing.


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