Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) refers to a group of conditions characterised by cycles of extreme low and high mood. The periods of low mood are referred to as ‘depressive episodes’. The periods of high mood are referred to as ‘manic’ or ‘hypomanic’ episodes.
While everyone experiences fluctuations in mood, the episodes of high and low mood experienced in bipolar disorder significantly impact on the person’s relationships, work or education, and day-to-day life.
Bipolar disorder can look quite different in different people. For some people, episodes can last for three to six months and occur every few years while others may experience shorter but more frequent episodes over the course of one year.
Medication which helps to stabilise mood (e.g. Lithium) is the first line of treatment for the acute phases of bipolar disorder (mania and hypomania), as well as relapse prevention. However, we now know that providing psychological support and intervention alongside treatment with prescribed medication, improves treatment outcomes.