Information for the public
Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) is a mental health problem that can cause a person's mood to swing from one extreme to another. These extremes are called episodes of mania and depression, and a single episode can last for several days or longer.
It is possible to have only 1 or 2 episodes of bipolar disorder a year or fewer and be well the rest of the time. However, some people have many episodes each year, or do not get well between episodes.
Bipolar disorder can sometimes cause symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real) and delusions (believing things that are not real or true).
During an episode of mania the person may feel very happy and energetic. They can become so overexcited that they're not able to control what they're doing. They may also feel much more confident than usual and take risks that they wouldn't normally take. The person often doesn't realise that they're ill during an episode of mania.
Some people have a type of mania called hypomania, which is less severe than mania (for example, there are usually no symptoms of psychosis). Having moods of hypomania that change to moods of depression, and then back to hypomania, is known as bipolar II (pronounced 'bipolar two') disorder.
During an episode of depression the person feels very 'low' and stops enjoying things they used to like doing. They may not feel like spending time with family and friends and feel very alone and isolated. They may also feel tired all the time, and sometimes think about harming themselves or suicide.