Bipolar disorder: an introduction


Three years ago I was admitted to the hospital for depression and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After reading numerous books on the subject I came to agree with the diagnosis. Before learning that I had bipolar disorder I just thought I was energetic, outgoing, enthusiastic and had periodic issues with depression.

Bipolar disorder: an introductionMost of us have a pretty good idea of what depression is, but what about bipolar disorder? Historically, the condition was known as manic depressive disorder, and the presence of both depression and mania defines the term. In order to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having bipolar disorder, a person would have had to experience at least one episode of mania in addition to clinically significant depression.

Let’s talk a bit about mania as it is less understood and recognized than depression. Here are some signs that someone may be experiencing a manic episode:

  • Feeling invincible, that nothing can stop you
  • Requiring very little sleep or food over several days
  • Uncontrolled and unfocussed fast talking and thinking
  • Attention seeking, risky behaviour involving finances, drugs and sex

These symptoms can last a week or longer. Left untreated these behaviours could escalate even further to a psychotic state where it is easier to recognize that the connection with reality is truly broken.

As with any mental illness, denial and confusion usually prevents effective diagnosis and treatment in the early stages. Once a diagnosis is established and accepted the work of helping, healing and managing the condition can begin. If you or someone you are close to has bipolar disorder, it is important to be ready for the setbacks as well as the triumphs when managing the condition. An important part of the process is learning how to stay balanced in the face the inevitable disappointments.

Mood Disorders of Canada has a bipolar forum where those affected and their loved ones can share stories and seek support.

Visit for additional online resources and to connect with a counsellor for personalized support.

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