AskDocQ: The Highs And Lows Of Bipolar Disorder

Once known as “manic depression”, bipolar disorder is actually quite common.

If you are bipolar, you may experience depression alternating with periods of mania or hypomania.

During periods of mania, you may feel elevated or high, be quite creative, spend a lot of money, and have trouble sleeping.

Sometimes this can lead to bouts of online shopping, gambling and big credit card bills. Your thoughts will often be racing and you may find it difficult to stay on one topic for long, your speech may be very fast and appear rather pressured.

Manic episodes also tend to heighten sexual drive, which might lead to a lot of time on Grindr.

You can also experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions and confused and disordered thoughts. These thoughts can be frightening or exciting but will usually seem very real.

In fact, usually if you’re manic you will have very little understanding that there is anything wrong with you at all.

Having bipolar puts you in some famous company – some of the world’s most creative artists have suffered from bipolar disorder, from Vincent Van Gogh through to Stephen Fry and Russell Brand.

Hypomania often manifests as periods of intense creativity, although often the ability to actually create is stifled by the overwhelming confusion that often accompanies an episode.

Effective treatment makes a big difference

Some people experience “mixed” episodes, where depression and mania occur simultaneously. People with bipolar often go for years or even their whole lives without being diagnosed, or are incorrectly diagnosed with depression, and so miss out on effective treatment.

This can have a terrible impact on their ability to hold down a job, maintain relationships and lead a fulfilling life.

Effective treatment for bipolar makes such a difference. Standard antidepressants often make things worse, so it’s very important that you get the right diagnosis.

Mood stabilisers are the mainstay of treatment, and sometimes antipsychotics and sedatives if you become manic.

Counselling is also very important to help you understand what’s going on in your brain and how to manage it.

If you think that you or someone you know might have bipolar symptoms, do talk to your doctor or psychologist – it’s their job to help you!

More information on bipolar disorder is available at or

Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBTIQ health.  Read more by Dr Bisshop on her website here or contact her on Twitter.

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Dr Fiona Bisshop

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