Category Archives: Bipolar

Can bipolar mood swings sometimes be a good thing?

All of us experience mood swings to some extent, you know, one minute you’re feeling quite happy and the next you’re down in the dumps. However, bipolar disorder is diagnosed when mood swings are significant and severe enough to interfere with an individual’s ability to function effectively on a day to day basis.


Treatment of bipolar disorder (sometimes referred to as manic depression) will usually involve some sort of anti depressant or anti psychotic medication.


Now a new report from the British Psychological Society authored by Professor Steven Jones of Lancaster University and a number of other leading psychologists who worked in partnership with service users, has suggested that mood swings are not always a bad thing and medication may not be the only answer.


According to the review, extreme mood swings can have their problems but they often bring significant benefits too, for example, many people who experience wide variations in mood are often creative and highly successful individuals – think of actor Stephen Fry, actress Carrie Fisher, television presenters Gail Porter and Bill Oddie, government press adviser Alistair Campbell and comedian Paul Merton as just a few examples.


The report also suggests that the  mood swings associated with bipolar are more extreme forms of the variations we all experience and can result from life events rather than just brain chemistry and it’s not always helpful to think of extreme mood swings as an illness.


It’s true that during ‘highs’ there can be a tendency for people with bipolar to believe they are capable of extraordinary things and all too often they are encouraged by health professionals to lower their expectations of what they can realistically achieve.


The report suggests that although medication may be helpful in some cases, it may not be the answer for everyone and that some people are able to manage their moods by changing their lifestyle and perhaps undergoing some form of psychotherapy.


One of the authors, Joanne Hemmingfield, a service user herself, said the report offered a “message of hope” to people with bipolar disorder “which is in stark contrast to the messages most people have received in the past”.


According to Clare Dolman, Chair of MDF the Bipolar Organisation, the report highlights the positive aspects of living with bipolar as well as the negative and “paints a more hopeful picture of the path to recovery by combining psychological approaches with medication where necessary”.



New study claims future bipolar mood swings can be predicted

A new study carried out by psychologists from Manchester and Lancaster Universities in the UK found that future mood swings of people suffering from bipolar disorder (manic depression) can be predicted based on how they are thinking at the moment reported Science Daily.

The research involved 50 people all of whom had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The participants were studied over a period of a month. The researchers found that their moods could be predicted even when medical history had been accounted for.

The symptoms of Bipolar disorder can be classified into four different types of bipolar states and these are Mania, Hypomania, Depression, and a combination of mania and depression.  Bipolar is characterised by severe mood changes that can swing from the heights of euphoria to the pits of depression, for some this cycle may happen in quick succession whereas others may remain in the same state for extended periods of time.

“Individuals who believed extreme things about their moods — for example that their moods were completely out of their own control or that they had to keep active all the time to prevent becoming a failure – developed more mood problems in a month’s time” said study lead Dr Warren Mansell, in Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences.

“In contrast, people with bipolar disorder who could let their moods pass as a normal reaction to stress or knew they could manage their mood, faired well a month later. These findings are encouraging for talking therapies – such as CBT – that aim to help patients to talk about their moods and change their thinking about them”

The findings of this study, which was published on April 19th 2011 in the American Psychological Association Journal Psychological Assessment, could potentially have an impact on future treatment for bipolar disorder as it means that cognitive behaviour therapy or talking therapies could prove to be beneficial.

Dr Mansell and others at Manchester University are currently developing a type of therapy known as TEAMS – Think Effectively About Mood Swings. This improved version of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Bipolar sufferers aims to help those with bipolar cope better with their emotions.

A new study is about to begin which will identify who goes on to make a recovery using the TEAMS approach and who relapses. No doubt we’ll be hearing more about this in future.

New Treatments on the way for Serious Depression and Bipolar Disorders

An associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai Hospital has uncovered novel new treatments for depression and bipolar disorders based on a new understanding of the brain mechanisms that bring about the conditions.  Director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the institute Dr. Dan V Iosifescu has been specialising in treatment- resistant depression. He has uncovered means to treat the between 10 and 15% of the population who suffer from the conditions of bipolar disorder and severe depression. Between 2 and 4% of the population suffer from bipolar disorder, according to the doctor.

The term ‘treatment resistant’ has been coined for those patients who have shown no signs of improvement after a series of treatments. In looking at the potential solutions Iosifescu has looked at the patients past, the reasoning behind their suffering. He has concluded that genetics and traumatic life events are the two feature causes of both conditions. The doctor has stated that, “One very important novel treatment is ketamine, a medication currently used for anesthesia. Recent studies, including several from our group at Mount Sinai, showed that ketamine works reliably and much faster than other antidepressants, with significant improvement occurring after only a few days, even in treatment-resistant patients.”
This he believes points to the possibility of using a ‘whole new family’ of drugs for the treatment of depression. Serotonin and the increase in levels, is the main focus of other mediations, yet the use of this type of drug is based on emphasising activity on glutamate brain receptors. He finds that, whilst there are a great many medications available for the treatment of those who are suffering from depression and bipolar disorder, the drugs available are very similar in nature. They are based on the same core criteria of increasing the levels of serotonin; whilst this may work for the majority of patients the ‘treatment resistant’ patients find these medications of little use. The, ‘new family,’ of drugs is proving evidential in assisting those who have been ‘treatment resistant’ in the past.

People with bipolar no more likely to be violent than anyone else

A new study has suggested that people with severe mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than those in good mental health, unless they abuse drugs or alcohol.

The study was carried out by Oxford University and involved 3,700 people in Sweden who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder or manic depression as it is also called is characterised by extreme mood swings, sometimes accompanied by bizarre behaviour.

Many people are still afraid of people with mental health problems and there are commonly held views that people with mental health problems are more likely to be violent.

“It is probably more dangerous walking outside a pub on a late night than walking outside a hospital where patients have been released” Dr Seena Fazel, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who led the study told the BBC.

The researchers compared the experiences of patients with bipolar disorder with around 4,000 brothers and sisters of people with the disorder and around 37,000 people from the general population.

The main finding was that violent behaviour was just as common people who did not have bipolar but who abused drugs and alcohol as it was in people with bipolar who abused drugs and alcohol.

“Most of the relationship between violent crime and serious mental illness can be explained by alcohol and substance abuse” said Dr Fazel. “That tends to be the thing that mediates the link between violence and the illness.”

However, the study also found that people with bipolar disorder were 10 times more likely to resort to drugs and alcohol than the general population, probably as a way of self medicating. Previous studies have also confirmed this.

The BBC also quotes Paul Farmer, the Chief Executive of the charity Mind as saying “The link between mental illness and violence is often grossly exaggerated when in fact people with mental health problems are far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators…this kind of stigma damages lives”.

The Chief Executive of the charity Sane told the BBC that the research overlooked the seriousness of severe mental illness.

“We accept that alcohol and drug abuse can exacerbate the more acute symptoms and that such abuse is more widely responsible for criminal acts.

“We also accept that the majority of people with mental illness are never violent and the chances of a member of the public being attacked at random extremely rare.

“However, we do not believe it is helpful to underplay the extreme pain, paranoia and denial of symptoms such as command voices which those with psychosis can experience and which may trigger damaging behaviour.”

Could an MRI scan diagnose Bipolar Disorder?

According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, a study using MRI scans has shown that there is a very different and distinct pattern of brain activity between people suffering from bipolar disorder and those suffering from ordinary depression or unipolar.

“If there’s a plan to do just one MRI in the future to try to decide whether someone has bipolar or depression, I’d suggest focussing the right pre-frontal cortex” said Professor Mary Phillips, professor of psychiatry and director of the Clinical and Translational Affective Neuroscience Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

“If there is any abnormality in functioning between the right and pre-frontal cortex and right Amygdala, the chances are that the person has bipolar” she said.

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is currently based on self reported experiences and observation of the individual’s behaviour.

Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression and some sufferers have had to wait months or even years for an accurate diagnosis. There is currently no diagnostic test that can detect whether someone has bipolar disorder or not and if there was, it could prevent much unnecessary suffering and even suicide.

“Only one in five sufferers are correctly diagnosed at first presentation to a doctor and it can take up to ten years before sufferers receive a correct diagnosis” said professor Phillips.

“The problem is that sufferers [of bipolar disorder] frequently fail to tell their doctors about hypomanic phases because they can be experienced as quite pleasant or judged not to be abnormal at all” she said.

Biploar disorder or manic depression is characterised by episodes of mania or hypomania and depressive episodes with periods of normal mood in between. Some sufferers also experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Bipolar has also been associated with high levels of creativity.

The disorder usually starts to manifest in late adolescence or early adulthood and persists for a lifetime. There is no cure. Around one in one hundred people are believed to be suffering from Bipolar Disorder.

According to Professor Phillips, future tests using MRI could predict whether a young person showing no symptoms of bipolar disorder is going to develop bipolar disorder at a later date.

This could help those who have a history of bipolar disorder in their family find out early on if they are going to develop it too and get the help and support they need before they actually develop any symptoms.

Psychiatrists identify new trend of “I want to be Bipolar”

Not so long ago, being diagnosed with a mental illness like Bipolar Disorder, also sometimes known as Manic Depression, was not good news for the sufferer or for their friends and family.

Now, according to psychiatrists Dr Diana Chan and colleague Dr Lester Sireling, there’s a new phenomena on the go where people are actually attending their doctor or mental health professional and asking to be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Why?

“The increasing popularity of bipolar disorder may be attributed to increased media coverage, coupled with the high social status associated with celebrities such as Stephen Fry talking about their own personal experiences of mental illness” Drs Chan and Sireling said in a news release.

“This appears to have promoted the disorder as less stigmatising and acceptable to the public, a phenomenon that may have an evolutionary basis”
In recent years there have been an increasing number of celebrities coming out and talking openly about their experience of the mental illness at the same time, a general increase in public awareness of mental health problems in general.

Consequently, it’s not so terrifying for someone experiencing mood swings and other symptoms of bipolar disorder to seek help.

“Recently, we have noticed numerous GP referrals to our service where the primary request has been for a psychiatric opinion on whether the patient may have bipolar disorder, as suggested by the patient’s own self-diagnosis” says Drs Chan and Sireling.

“Also common, but less so in our experience, is the patient who attends reluctantly at the instigation of family members who are convinced they have finally made the diagnosis that can explain the awkward or embarrassing behaviour of their relative. Both types of presentation were very uncommon until about three years ago” they said.

There’s a down side to a bipolar diagnosis that Chan and Sireling say patients might not realise. For example, there are side effects to any medication that may be prescribed, plus the fact that they would also have to declare the condition to employers and insurance companies.

However, the doctors are also keen to point out that it can be equally harmful to miss a diagnosis of someone who genuinely has the disorder.

At the moment the statistics suggest that around one in 100 people have the mental illness but this figure could in fact be much higher.

The Highs And Lows Of Having Bipolar Mental Health Disorder

All of us experience times when we are sad and feeling down, and times when we feel happy and excited about life and this is perfectly normal. However, when these highs and lows are extreme, then it could be an indication of bipolar mental health disorder, which is also sometimes referred to as manic depression.

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme changes in mood and behaviour where the sufferer experiences episodes of mania followed by episodes of depression, in other words ‘highs’ and ‘lows’.

Many people who have Bipolar disorder are also highly intelligent and extremely creative, even gifted. However, the disorder can also wreck lives and can sometimes result in suicide.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can range from very mild to extremely severe, everyone’s experience will be different. However, most people with Bipolar find that their symptoms follow a pattern and depending on that pattern will fall into one of the following different types of bipolar disorder.

•    Bipolar 1 – Mood swings with episodes of depression and extreme mania
•    Bipolar 2 – Mood swings with episodes of depression and milder mania
•    Cyclothymic Bipolar – Mild mood swings
•    Mixed Bipolar – involves episodes of both depression and mania occurring simultaneously
•    Rapid Cycling Bipolar – where there are four or more episodes of depression and mania occurring within a 12 month period.

What happens during the’ highs’ and ‘lows’?

During episodes of mania the individual may feel capable of tackling anything, can be extremely optimistic about their abilities and have an inflated idea of their own importance and power.

During these so called “highs” the bipolar sufferer may find they need very little sleep, have an increase in energy, are hypersexual, restless, and easily distracted. There may be psychosis too.

They can also be highly creative with many brilliant ideas. A person going through a manic phase may have racing thoughts and talk very fast, sometimes incoherently, and might become frustrated when others can’t keep up with them.

On the other hand they can show bizarre behaviour, poor judgement and decision making skills which can mean impulsive and extravagant spending, grandiose thinking, wild adventures, and inappropriate actions. Feelings of euphoria, excitement and extreme optimism are common.

In complete contrast, during a depressive episode the individual may feel sad and hopeless, guilty, tired, unable to concentrate, may lose their appetite be unable to sleep or function, and feel like their life is not worth living. There is a higher risk of suicide during a depressive episode.

How is Bipolar disorder treated?

Treatment for bipolar will usually consist of mood stabilising drugs, anti psychotics if psychosis is present, and sometimes anticonvulsants. Psychological therapies have also proved effective for many sufferers, particularly with helping them to cope with their illness on a daily basis.

The essential Omega 3 fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA has also been gaining increasing recognition for being effective at helping to alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder and research studies are continuing to highlight the benefit that EPA can have not just for bipolar disorder but for other mental health problems too.

Defining Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

Bipolar spectrum disorder is a category of mood disorders.  This category of mood disorders is characterized by manic episodes where a person experiences an unusual elevated mood.  Bipolar spectrum disorder can include full manic episodes or mild episodes called hypomanic episodes.  Also falling under the category of bipolar spectrum disorder are conditions where depressive episodes occur.


Bipolar spectrum disorder is often misunderstood because of the great variety of conditions which fall under this category. A person who experiences a manic episode followed by a depressive episode would be a characteristic case of bipolar that would often be recognized easily.  However, there is such a wide range within bipolar spectrum disorder that diagnosis is often difficult.

Bipolar spectrum disorder can include people who never really have major manic episodes or who have a mixed episode that has characteristics of both manic and depressive symptoms.

Identifying Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

To better aid I diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder a system was introduced in 1978 by J. Angst.  This system classifies where a person lies within the spectrum.  The following codes are used to identify different areas of the spectrum:

– M is severe mania
– D is severe depression
– m is less severe mania
– d is less severe depression

These letters are often used in combination to define a persons normal episodes such as mD is hypomania and depression.

Important Facts

Bipolar spectrum disorder includes bipolar type 1, bipolar type 2 and sub threshold bipolar disorder.  Bipolar type 1 is considered the classic form and involves reoccurring episodes of mania and depression.  Bipolar type 2 involves mild episodes of mania with depressive episodes.  Other bipolar disorders that do not fall into the type 1 or type 2  are considered sub threshold bipolar disorder.

Bipolar spectrum disorder is often misdiagnosed because the frequency of the episodes may not be too often enough to see that both manic and depressive episodes are occurring.  Additionally, manic episodes vary so much from individual to individual and can include a range of symptoms that are similar to other psychiatric conditions.

Bipolar spectrum disorder requires effective management and treatment to control the disease.  Often times treatment will completely control the condition and a person will feel they no longer need medication.  Going off medication can cause severe reoccurrences of the disorder though.  It is essential that treatment for bipolar is long term because it is never cured and can come back.

Options in Managing Bipolar

Managing bipolar is important to living with the disorder.  Bipolar can not be cured but through good management it can be controlled and become something you can live with.  It is common for a person who has been treating their bipolar effectively to think they no longer need treatment as they are better, but this often leads to severe relapses which causes major manic and depressive episodes.

Treatment is important and should be managed carefully to ensure that your bipolar disorder is kept under control. The following outlines the common medical treatments for bipolar disorder.


The most common way to treat bipolar is through medication.  Usually a person is given a combination of drugs to treat both manic and depressive episodes.

Lithium is a popular drug used to treat manic episodes.  Mood stabilizers are also used to help prevent manic and depressive episodes.  Anti depressants are also used to treat the depressive episodes.

It is usually a process that the patient and doctor go through to find the best medication or combination of medications to use in treatment.


Therapy is used in many forms from professional to private.  A person with bipolar can join support groups or talk to a counselor.  Therapy is often used to help a person learn to deal with their condition, learn about their condition and to generally help make it easier to deal with bipolar.

Most doctors recommend some type of therapy for bipolar.  Talking through feelings can help you to identify what triggers your bipolar episodes and can be a good way to control them in the future.  You can also find out a lot more about yourself and learn to manage your life better through therapy.


Support comes in many forms.  It does not just include support groups where you talk to others dealing with bipolar.  It can include learning more through reading about bipolar and discovering new methods of treatment.  You may also learn more about how others deal with bipolar and get some useful advice you can use.

It is hard to deal with bipolar alone and through support many people they become more able to handle their condition.  You can find support offline and online.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT has shown great results for people who are not able to tolerate medications or do not respond to other treatments.  ECT is a form of electroshock therapy.  It is done under professional guidance.  ECT is often used in very severe cases.

Bipolar Support Groups

Bipolar support groups help create a viable way to cope with manic depression and they serve as vehicles for better understanding as well. Learning as much as possible about the diagnosis is a crucial step towards proper management and treatment.

Benefits of Support Groups

Obtaining knowledge about bipolar disorders requires more than simply reading the criteria outlined in the diagnostic manual. Real-life experiences offer wonderful insight and people who share similar experiences offer excellent support for one another. Knowledge is empowering in nearly every aspect of life, including mood disorders.

Lack of knowledge is frightening and it can lead to unnecessary stress and agitation. Unwarranted fears can result in a magnification of the symptoms, making recovery very difficult. Taking time to learn about bipolar disorder can help individuals treat the condition effectively.

Support groups are valuable because members are able to provide useful advice that professional may not recognize. Small details about daily life are of great importance and it is difficult to make recommendations without having adequate experience.

Making Connections

Isolation is a significant problem for people who have manic depression. Bipolar support groups provide opportunities for individuals to make strong connections with people who have similar experiences. Having an empathetic ear is so very valuable for people who have bipolar disorder.

Where to Find Bipolar Support Groups

The first place to look for a support group for bipolar disorder is your physician’s surgery. This is the most viable approach to finding an organisation within close proximity. Many surgeries offer information readily in the form of leaflets that outline support groups for various conditions.

Some people choose to conduct research online in order to find a bipolar support group in close proximity. There are online support groups to consider as well. These convenient forums offer insight from people around the world. The convenient approach makes attending meetings quite simple since there is no need to commute.

Coping Strategies

One of the most impressive benefits to joining a bipolar support group is learning how to develop coping skills. Bipolar people share how they manage their condition and they provide valuable insight ranging from a number of different perspective.

Some members are quite new to the condition and they share how they handle the diagnosis whist others have been managing their conditions for many years. Everyone has a unique experience with bipolar disorder but each insight offers valuable information and coping strategies.