What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depression and is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. If you have bipolar disorder you will have periods or ‘episodes’ of depression and mania.
Depression is where you feel very low and mania is where you feel very high.
Bipolar disorder is a relatively common condition with around one person in 100 being diagnosed with the condition. It can occur at any age, although it often develops in people who are between 18-24 years of age.
On this page
If you think you may have bipolar disorder, you should visit your GP who will be able to help you further. If your GP agrees, they will refer you to our services so you can be assessed and given help and support.
Treatment for bipolar disorder
How we may help, and some of the treatments on offer.
Treatment for bipolar disorder aims to reduce the severity and number of episodes of depression and mania to allow as normal a life as possible.
Treatment options for bipolar disorder
If a person isn’t treated, episodes of bipolar-related mania can last for between three and six months. Episodes of depression tend to last longer, for between 6 and 12 months.
However, with effective treatment, episodes usually improve within about three months.
Most people with bipolar disorder can be treated using a combination of different treatments. These can include one or more of the following:
- medication to prevent episodes of mania, hypomania (less severe mania) and depression. These are known as mood stabilisers and are taken every day on a long-term basis
- medication to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they occur
- learning to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
- psychological treatment – such as talking therapies, which help you deal with depression and provide advice on how to improve relationships
- lifestyle advice – such as doing regular exercise, planning activities you enjoy that give you a sense of achievement, and advice on improving your diet and getting more sleep
Read more about living with bipolar disorder.
Our teams and services
Where to find us, and which services can help you.
Living with a mental health condition
Information for patients and carers on the wider aspects of living with a mental health condition.
Mental illness can affect many areas of your life. This section has information on many aspects of your daily life, from physical health to work, education and recovery. Select an area below to learn more:
Five Ways to Wellbeing
- Connect with people - your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Speaking to people over the telephone or online can help, but there’s nothing like being in the company of others to boost your mood.
- Get active - take a walk, go cycling, join a dance class, go swimming or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life. Anything that raises your heart rate – even cleaning the house – can help.
- Keep learning – give yourself a sense of achievement and a new confidence. Why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, learn a new language, or figure out how to fix your bike?
- Give - even the smallest act can count - whether it's a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you make new friends.
- Be mindful - be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness ‘mindfulness’ and it can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
These are proven techniques to help boost your general wellbeing and they are things we can all incorporate into our daily lives. If you want to make your mental health and wellbeing a priority, following these steps is a good place to start.
Drugs and alcohol
Support in Gloucestershire
CGL Gloucestershire is a free and confidential drug and alcohol service for adults (including offenders), families, carers and affected others.
They provide information, support, advice and treatment options from three main hubs across the county - Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud. They also work from a range of other locations including pharmacies and community venues.
Support in Herefordshire
Addaction Herefordshire offers information, advice and support for people with drug and alcohol issues every weekday, and on alternative Saturdays. There is a young people’s service for those aged 11+. Their recovery-focused service has bases in Hereford as well as outreach via partner organisations. They aim to support people to overcome their issues and develop the skills necessary to go on to live a fulfilling life in recovery. They also support the families of people with substance misuse issues.
Money and mental health
This website gives information about the relationship between money worries and mental health, with suggestions on how to address them.
If you wish to see a copy of your health record, please ask the person providing your care or write to: Head of Health Records, Rikenel, Montpellier, Gloucester GL1 1LY.
In your letter, give:
- your name
- date of birth
- any other information which would help locate your file
Please note: there may be a charge for this service.
If you think that information in your health records may not be accurate, please notify us in writing.
Pregnancy and mental health
Getting specialist advice and guidance prior to becoming pregnant will help reduce the risks for you and your baby. There is help and support available, so don't be afraid to talk about how you are feeling with your midwife, GP or psychiatrist – they will be happy to discuss your particular problem and care with you.
Women who have had previous serious mental ill health can be at higher risk of becoming unwell during pregnancy and after birth. Mental health professionals can discuss care and treatment choices and support you to make informed choices about managing your condition, including weighing up the benefits and risks of taking medication. They will help you make a plan to look after your mental health as your pregnancy progresses and once your baby is born.
If your pregnancy is unplanned, then you should inform your care coordinator or lead mental health professional as soon as you know you are pregnant, so they can help and support you. It is important a women's mental health remains stable during pregnancy and after birth. There is increasing evidence that shows that untreated mental illness during this period can have a negative longer term effect on a baby's development.
If you are pregnant, it is important that you don’t stop your medication suddenly, unless told to do so by your doctor. Stopping treatment suddenly may cause you to become unwell again more quickly and increase the risks for you and your baby. It can also cause side effects. It may be best for you to continue your medication during your pregnancy and if you choose to breastfeed. Mental illness can sometimes impact on a women's ability to care for herself and her baby. It is also important to inform your midwife about your mental health condition and any medication you are taking. Do not treat yourself with herbal remedies without consulting your doctor.
Taking your medication whilst pregnant
If you are on medication, or specific medication has been suggested to you, the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website is a helpful resource. This free service gives the most up-to-date, evidence-based information for women and their families. This website is an excellent resource but please still discuss any medication changes with your doctor.
Did you know?
- Smoking is the primary reason for the 10 to 20 year shortened life expectancy for people with a mental health disorder. Smoking causes cancer, cardio vascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- People with mental health conditions consume 42 per cent of all tobacco bought in the UK
- Many think smoking is a mood enhancer - in fact it causes depression, stress and anxiety
- Smokers have a 79 per cent increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease
These are just some of the reasons why cutting down or giving up smoking altogether can have a huge impact on improving your health and wellbeing.
How to get help quitting
- If you are one of our service users, ask to speak to a Smokefree Champion or Quit Advisor
- If you live in Gloucestershire, visit hlsglos.org or ring 0800 122 3788
- You can also call the national Smokefree helpline on 0800 022 4332 (Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm)
- GPs can provide advice and prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products and most surgeries have nurses who offer a stop smoking service
- The national Smokefree website includes a wide range of support options and advice
Information for carers
Carers and families provide a vital support network but are at greater risk of experiencing mental and physical health problems and emotional stress themselves due to the demands of being a carer. As well as providing care and treatment for the people who use our services, we are also here to support you. If you have a problem, if something is worrying you, or if you are confused about how to get help, then please talk to us.
On this page you will find information about your involvement in the care we provide to your relative or friend and information about support for you in your caring role.
Information for professionals
Notes on services, contacts and treatments for healthcare professionals.
Referral information for Gloucestershire GPs and Healthcare Practitioners
Referral information for Herefordshire GPs and Healthcare Practitioners
News and views
News stories linked to bipolar disorder and related conditions.
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