Monday, 18 November 2013 09:09

Bipolar Disorder: What You Need To Know

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Bipolar Disorder








John has rushes of energy when he wakes in the morning. It is like he is bouncing of the walls; rushing ‘here and there’ with lots of thoughts and feelings swirling around in his head of the stuff that he is going to achieve. The problem is that John is not able to focus on one single thought long enough to complete simple tasks. There is though another side to John; which is the dark depressed side where John struggles to get up out of bed and engage in life and he is always sad and down. On these days, John no longer has the energy that had him bouncing of the walls a few days ago. These mood swings of lots of energy, racing thoughts to no energy, always down happen quite frequently with John as he struggles to find a happy balance between being energetic and full of life and suffering from depression.


John may be suffering from an illness known as Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression which affects both adults and children.


What is Bipolar Disorder?


Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes intense swings and shifts in energy levels, mood, and activity levels. In one instance you can be racing around full of energy with thousands of thoughts in your head to the next moment where you are down and don’t feel like doing anything. When a child is suffering from bipolar disorder they find it extremely difficult to follow through on things and carry out day-to-day tasks, such as going to school or hanging out with friends.


It is important to note that bipolar disorder is different to your normal ups and downs that you may go through from time to time. Bipolar disorder is a serious illness and can damage personal relationships with friends and family, cause poor performance at school, lead to drug use and other inappropriate behaviours and may even cause suicide.


How Does Bipolar Disorder occur?


Bipolar disorder is an inherited illness linked to specific genes from your family. Researchers Numberger and Foroud (2000) note that children with a parent or sibling is 6 times more likely of developing bipolar disorder over someone who doesn’t have a family history. However, most children with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness.


Children with a history of bipolar disorder are also more susceptible to the illness when placed under stress or when they experience a tragic event or situation. For example the death of parent or the collapse of a relationship could be the spark that triggers this illness to develop. It is important to realise that bipolar disorder is an illness and is not something that you can control or stop from occurring by simply telling yourself that you shouldn't feel or have those thoughts.


What are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder?


Because bipolar disorder shifts between stages of excessive energy and racing thoughts to sadness and crying there are many signs and symptoms that fit this spectrum of behaviours:




  • Being overfully happy and joyful which is above and beyond how you would normally act
  • Have a short temper and you get angry all the time at the silliest things
  • You never sleep and never feel tired
  • Struggle concentrating and paying attention. You jump from one thought to another constantly
  • You tend to take more risks than normal
  • You talk quickly and race through conversations
  • You talk and think about sex a lot.



  • Being sad that lasts for long periods of time
  • Having thoughts of suicide or death
  • Never want to come out of your room and just want to sleep all of the time
  • Have no interest in seeing friends and doing activities
  • Eating a lot more or less than what you would normally eat
  • Suffer from ore frequent headaches, muscle pains or stomach aches.


Birmaher et al (2006) note that children with bipolar disorder are different from adults with bipolar disorder as they tend to have more frequent mood switches, are sick more often, and have more mixed episodes. A mixed episode is when someone experiences both mania symptoms and depression symptoms at the same time.


Treating bipolar disorder


Because bipolar disorder is chemical problem in the brain it does requires specific medicines to treat the different symptoms that occur. A normal doctor cannot prescribe this type of medicine; you need to see a specialised doctor known as a Psychiatrist. A Psychiatrist will work with you to determine the right medicine including the amounts that you will need to take. Along with prescribing medicine to help with your bipolar disorder, the Psychiatrist will talk with you on how you can develop strategies to manage your moods. The Psychiatrist may also suggest that you talk with other people who have bipolar disorder which can help you understand and learn strategies to control your mood and different symptoms.


At this stage there is no cure for bipolar disorder, but is important to understand that bipolar disorder can be treated and managed with the right medication and coping strategies. Research is occurring all the time, especially on how it affects kids. This research is helping doctors understand better ways to help people with bipolar disorder.





Birmaher B, Axelson D, Strober M, Gill MK, Valeri S, Chiappetta L, Ryan N, Leonard H, Hunt J, Iyengar S, Keller M. Clinical course of children and adolescents with bipolar spectrum disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Feb;63(2):175–183


Nurnberger JI, Jr., Foroud T. Genetics of bipolar affective disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2000 Apr;2(2):147–157

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