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. https://www.changegrowlive.org/content/cgl-gloucestershire
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. www.addaction.org.uk/services/addaction-herefordshire
Money and mental health
Money and mental health are often linked. Poor mental health can make managing money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health worse. This website gives information about the relationship between money worries and mental health, with suggestions on how to address them.
The Money Advice Service is also a good source of information and support around money and debt.
- 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
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 professionals
Notes on services, contacts and treatments for healthcare professionals.
Referral information for Gloucestershire GPs and Healthcare Practitioners
Referrals can be made using the same mechanisms as other services.
Referral information for Herefordshire GPs and Healthcare Practitioners
Referrals can be made using the same mechanisms as other services.
News and views
News stories linked to bipolar disorder and related conditions.
Have you ever thought about volunteering? This week, 1-7June, is Volunteers' Week, so we're encouraging people to look at how they can get involved. Volunteering not only makes a difference to the organisation you support, but can also deliver benefits to your...read more
Ed’s mental illness started when he was 18-years-old and went to university. He went on to become very unwell, but a combination of support and medication has meant he has, in his own words, “got his identity back”. Ed explained more: “I started university and...read more
Daisy first began to experience mental illness after an encounter with a spirit healer at Glastonbury Festival, when she was 21-years-old. She now considers herself to be 80 per cent recovered, and attributes this to not only hospital treatment and medication, but...read more
²gether NHS Foundation Trust has been working with the national Time to Change campaign on a project aimed at tackling stigma and discrimination reported by people using mental health services across the UK. As well as reporting that they have experienced stigma on a...read more