Mood changes are part of everyday life for us all. If you have bipolar disorder, though, you are likely to experience extreme swings, from low mood (depression) to periods of overactive behaviour (mania) – usually with more ‘normal’ phases in-between.
It is thought that around one in a hundred of us are affected by bipolar disorder. Even so, it is often misunderstood as a mental health problem. This can result in stigma and discrimination, which might make it harder for people to speak openly about what they are going through, as well as seek the help they need.
What is bipolar disorder?
"I've been brought up to never talk about mental health – if you can't see it, it doesn’t exist. This is why I think it is important to share; and as I start on my journey with bipolar, I want to write about both the positive and negative responses I have to this illness.” (Zoe) How do I tell people I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) is a severe mood disorder. Individuals experience low moods, which might be characterised by depression, feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy and social withdrawal. At other times, high, manic moods can bring confidence, energy and optimism, as well as a loss of inhibition.
Bipolar disorder can have a significant impact on someone’s life, but it’s important to note that many people who live with it lead productive, creative lives.
The stigma around bipolar disorder
"You never know how someone will react when you declare a mental health problem – especially at my level of management. There's still that huge misconception that those of us with complex mental health problems don't work or are incapable of doing a job that is stressful, mentally challenging or requires you to work outside the standard 9 – 5.” (Rachel) Is bipolar a disability? I never know what to put
Mental health problems are common, but nearly nine in ten people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination as a result.
This stigma and discrimination can be one of the hardest parts of the overall experience because it might mean lost friendships, isolation, exclusion from activities, difficulties in getting and keeping a job, not finding help and a slower recovery. Equally, stigma can cause us to shy away from the people around us who might need our support.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Do you want to find out more about bipolar disorder? Read blogs and personal stories from people who have experienced bipolar disorder.