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a mental health condition characterised by significant mood swings, shifting between intense highs (mania) and lows (depression), disrupting daily life and emotions

Bipolar impacts various aspects of individuals’ lives, from personal relationships to professional pursuits. Although mood fluctuations are a universal part of being human, bipolar can make your mood change dramatically, from feeling very depressed to being overactive.

You might have symptoms of depression or you might be overactive, the latter of which includes feeling energetic or restless, irritability, talking quickly, making impulsive decisions, being sexually promiscuous, or being argumentative or aggressive. This can be more than just ordinary mood swings; it can cause extreme, often distressing, changes in mood.

Recent studies highlight a significant number of individuals in Scotland grappling with bipolar, underscoring the importance of understanding and addressing this condition. 

Recognising the signs of bipolar can be challenging due to societal misconceptions surrounding mental health. Left unattended, bipolar can lead to severe consequences, disrupting daily functioning and straining relationships. Open conversations and education about bipolar are crucial to dispelling stigmas and promoting a supportive community that encourages early intervention and effective management. 

Common myths about bipolar

 bipolar is just extreme moodiness

Bipolar involves distinct episodes of mania and depression that significantly impact an individual’s thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It is a complex mental health condition with specific diagnostic criteria and requires professional attention and support. 

 bipolar affects only one’s emotions

Bipolar can affect relationships, work and physical health. Manic episodes may lead to impulsive decisions, strained relationships and risky behaviours. While depressive episodes can hinder daily functioning, impacting job performance and personal relationships. 

mania is productive and enjoyable

Sometimes, a person may feel good at first during a mania episode. Yet, without treatment, it can lead to overspending, irritability, severe lack of sleep and loss of control. Seeking treatment early on is key to preventing such outcomes.


Bipolar may result from various factors, including: 

  • Genetic factors: Individuals with a family history of bipolar are more likely to have it. 
  • Neurochemical imbalances: Fluctuations in brain chemicals contribute to mood swings and the development of bipolar. 
  • Trauma and stress: Traumatic experiences or prolonged stress can trigger and exacerbate bipolar symptoms. 
  • Substance use: Substance misuse can worsen or trigger bipolar symptoms, creating a complex interplay between mental health and substance use. 


The symptoms of bipolar vary among individuals and may include:

  • Elevated mood and energy during manic episodes
  • Persistent sadness and low energy during depressive episodes
  • Impaired concentration and decision-making
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Rapid speech and intrusive thoughts

What are the different types of bipolar? 

Bipolar presents in different forms, each with distinct characteristics. The most common types in Scotland are: 

Bipolar I

This type involves manic episodes that last at least seven days or are severe enough to require immediate hospitalisation. Depressive episodes may also occur, but not always. 

Bipolar II

Involves experiencing depressive episodes at least once and hypomania –  a milder form of mania. 


It involves chronic fluctuations between hypomanic and depressive symptoms for a period of at least two years in adults and one year in children and youth. 

Rapid cycling disorder

Diagnosed when a person experiences four or more mood episodes (either depressive, manic, or hypomanic) within a year. There might be stable periods in between. These episodes can last from days to months. 

How do I manage my bipolar? 

Effectively managing bipolar involves a combination of self-care strategies and seeking professional support and treatment. The two main types of treatment for bipolar disorder are medication and talking therapies.  The exact combination of both will depend on whether you’re managing the symptoms of particular episode or your mental health between the episodes.

Some of the self-care practices include identifying triggers, establishing routines and incorporating healthy lifestyle choices. Mindfulness techniques, like meditation, can help in stress reduction. 

Setting realistic goals, breaking tasks into manageable steps and practising self-compassion contribute to a more stable mindset. Connecting with mental health professionals, such as therapists or counsellors, allows for healthy coping strategies and provides a supportive space to explore underlying issues contributing to bipolar. 

How do I support someone with bipolar? 

Supporting someone with bipolar requires empathy, patience and open communication. Listening without judgment and validating their experiences is crucial. Encouraging them to share their feelings and experiences while offering reassurance and understanding can make a significant impact.

Educating oneself about bipolar helps gain insight into their struggles. Assisting in identifying coping mechanisms and promoting self-care practices is essential. Creating a supportive environment and being mindful of potential triggers can contribute to their overall wellbeing.

If appropriate, accompanying them to therapy sessions or medical appointments can provide additional support. It is crucial to avoid dismissing or trivialising their challenges. Your presence, understanding and encouragement play a vital role in their journey towards managing bipolar. If their symptoms are severe, encourage them to seek professional help and refer to the NHS website for more information.


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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