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Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterised by extreme changes in mood, thinking and energy lasting several weeks or months. These changes are intense, can feel as if they are outside our direct control and may significantly impact day-to-day life.

People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of highs and lows called elation and depression.

Elation and depression

  • Symptoms of elation

    • Increased energy levels 
    • Feeling very happy or positive (whether things are going well or not)
    • Being extremely talkative
    • Being extremely irritable
    • Uncontrollable excitement
    • Uncontrollable spending
    • Engaging in risk-taking behaviour
    • Being argumentative, pushy or aggressive.
  • Symptoms of depression

    • Low mood, sadness
    • Hopelessness
    • Feeling guilty, worthless or helpless
    • Weight loss
    • Physical slowing or agitation
    • Lack of interest in sex
    • Sleep problems such as sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
    • Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts.

Bipolar disorder affects approximately one in 50 Irish adults. It affects men and women equally. It can occur at any age but is usually seen in late teens-early adulthood and affects people from all walks of life.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, however, research has indicated that genetic, biological and environmental factors all seem to play a part.


There is a lot that can be done to treat and manage bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression and episodes of mania or hypomania. Therefore its management usually involves two parts:

  • Treating the current episode of mania or depression
  • Preventing the long-term recurrence of mania and depression.

Medication is the primary treatment to reduce symptoms of bipolar episodes and prevent relapse. However, in addition to medication, treatment for bipolar can include psychological treatment. Group psychoeducation for bipolar disorder in conjunction with medications has been shown to delay relapse as well as reducing the number of relapses. Psychoeducation involves learning about the illness, the signs and symptoms and what you can do in addition to taking medications to keep yourself well.

Many people use helpful management strategies in addition to their treatment for bipolar. These include dealing with bipolar triggers, responding to early bipolar symptoms or warning signs and making lifestyle adjustments. Good support from caregivers and clinicians can also make a difference. Managing their bipolar disorder and engaging in life helps many people to live well. 

Useful resources

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