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We all go through different emotional responses based on given circumstances, or what we usually call “ups and downs”. This variation in moods does not affect our relationships, work, or daily routine functioning.

Bipolar disorder affects about 1 in 100 people. Individuals who have bipolar disorder go through extremely varying emotions, and they are not necessarily in response to real life situations. Bipolar disorder is marked by:

  • Depression, very down, sad mood and nil energy
  • Mania, extremely elated and overly energized

1. What does bipolar disorder feel like?

  • Mania: feeling overly joyous, excited or irritable; fast, pressured speech; difficulty concentrating; over-confidence and inflated ideas about oneself; hyperactivity; decreased need for sleep; over-reactivity; risky behaviors (drug use, over-expenditure of money, risky sexual behaviors)
  • Depression: sad mood, hopelessness, helplessness, decreased energy and activity, appetite disturbances, sleep disturbances, loss of joy in previously pleasurable activities, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, suicidal thoughts or death wishes
  • In extreme cases, some individuals with bipolar disorder may experience psychotic outbreaks. For instance, they might believe they are very famous and rich (manic episode), or they are ruined and penniless, or being followed by police (depressive episode). They might hear voices that aren’t there (auditory hallucinations)
  • Due to the extreme nature of bipolar disorder, individuals have disrupted social relationships, work, education, and other aspects of their lives.

2. What puts a person at risk of developing bipolar disorder?

  • Genetics; bipolar disorder runs in families
  • Changes in brain chemistry; imbalances in one or more of the naturally occurring neurotransmitters, namely Serotonin, Dopamine, and Noradrenaline

3. What are the treatment modalities at LWHCC for bipolar disorder?

  • Psycho-education about the nature of the illness and treatment has shown to be very effective with individuals with bipolar disorder.
  • Psychotherapy, particularly during depression episodes
  • Medications, aiming at stabilizing mood swings and also importantly during acute phases of the illness. Depending on the individual presenting symptoms, either one or a combination of the following medications may be prescribed, including Lithium carbonate, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics. Bipolar disorder requires long term treatment, so it is crucial that the patient does not stop these medications abruptly.

Please do not hesitate to contact the mental health team at LWHCC for detailed description of those medications.

Which treatment modality is better for me?

At LWHCC, we will provide you with free triage service with a professional mental health nurse who will carry on a brief mental health assessment, either over the phone or during a face-to-face interview, and guide you to the appropriate service based on your mental health status and individual needs.

4. What can you do to help yourself?

Although bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, treatment along with self-help techniques have shown great improvement in the quality of life of individuals with bipolar disorder

  • Eat well and stay active. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid medication related side effects, including diabetes and weight gain
  • Learn about bipolar disorder. Education is empowering and encouraging to follow your treatment plan
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Stay focused on your goals; recovery is a long process

5. What can you do to help a close one who has bipolar disorder?

Living with someone with bipolar disorder is challenging. It can have a toll on the couple’s/family’s finances, social relationships, and personal relationship. Keep in mind that your close one is suffering. He/ She does not intend to cause harm and is not just being “moody”. Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires treatment and a lot of commitment, and this is best achieved with the support of family or close social network.

  • Learn about bipolar disorder. You may want to discuss your concerns with the patient’s mental health team. Please do not hesitate to contact us any time you have a question.
  • You do not really need to provide answers. Simply, by providing your attention and reassurance helps your close one further than you can imagine with accepting their condition and treatment
  • Be active in your close one’s treatment.
  • Do not neglect yourself. Make sure you have emotional and mental capability to support your close one, or else you will burn out
  • Make a plan. Bipolar disorder is unpredictable and having a ready plan for the patient and care-giver will give you both the sense that you are on top of things
  • Learn about the warning signs

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