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06 November 2017

Skip to: Depression, Bipolar


What is Depression?

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.

Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn't a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together".

The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains. However, some people may have little to no physical symptoms and are functioning professionals dealing with depression.

The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living. Most people experience feelings of stress, unhappiness or anxiety during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.

Luckily there are many ways of treating depression, the treatment you may receive will depend on the type of depression you have.

Different Types of Depression and possible treatments:

·         Mild Depression - wait and see, exercise, self-help groups

·         Mild to Moderate Depression - talking treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling

·         Moderate to Severe Depression – antidepressants, combination therapy, mental health

What are the different treatments?

Wait and see: if you're diagnosed with mild depression, it may improve by itself. In this case, you'll be seen again by your GP after two weeks to monitor your progress. This is known as "watchful waiting".

Exercise: there's evidence that exercise can help depression, and it's one of the main treatments for mild depression. You may be referred to a qualified fitness trainer for an exercise scheme. You can also find out more about starting exercise and exercise for depression.

Self-help groups: talking through your feelings can be helpful. You could talk to a friend or relative, or you can ask your GP to suggest a local self-help group. Find out more about depression support groups. Your GP may also recommend self-help books and online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). 

Antidepressants: antidepressants are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types of antidepressant. They have to be prescribed by a doctor, usually for depression that's moderate or severe.

Combination therapy: your GP may recommend that you take a course of antidepressants plus talking therapy, particularly if your depression is quite severe. A combination of an antidepressant and CBT usually works better than having just one of these treatments.

Mental health teams: if you have severe depression, you may be referred to a mental health team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists. These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medication. 

Talking therapy: there are different types of talking therapy for depression, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling. Your GP can refer you for talking treatment or, in some parts of the country, you might be able to refer yourself. Some talking treatments include; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Online CBT, Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and counselling.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying closer attention to the present moment, and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the world around you to improve your mental wellbeing. The aim is to develop a better understanding of your mind and body, and to learn how to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

Who can help?

It's important to seek help from your GP if you think you may be depressed. Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it's best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery. You can also refer yourself to other services designed to help with depression.



What is Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.

People with bipolar disorder have periods or episodes of:

·         Depression – feeling very low and lethargic

You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before having a future manic episode (sometimes years later), after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide. If you're feeling suicidal or having severe depressive symptoms, contact your GP, care co-ordinator or local mental health emergency services as soon as possible.

·         Mania – feeling very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania)

During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy and have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas. You may spend large amounts of money on things you can't afford and wouldn't normally want. Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase. You may feel very creative and view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive experience. However, you may also experience symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that aren't there or become convinced of things that aren't true

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you're experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a "normal" mood very often.

The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life.

However, there are several options for treating bipolar disorder that can make a difference. They aim to control the effects of an episode and help someone with bipolar disorder live life as normally as possible.

The following treatment options are available:

  • medication to prevent episodes of mania, hypomania (less severe mania) and depression – these are known as mood stabilisers and are taken every day on a long-term basis
  • medication to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they occur
  • learning to recognise the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
  • psychological treatment – such as talking therapy, which can help you deal with depression, and provides advice about how to improve your relationships
  • lifestyle advice – such as doing regular exercise, planning activities you enjoy that give you a sense of achievement, as well as advice on improving your diet and getting more sleep

It's thought using a combination of different treatment methods is the best way to control bipolar disorder.

Who’s affected?

Bipolar disorder is fairly common and one in every 100 adults will be diagnosed with the condition at some point in their life.

Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 15 and 19 and rarely develops after 40. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.

Who can help?

If you or someone you know is suffering with Bipolar Disorder, then we recommend getting help if you have not already done so. This can be by going to your GP and letting them know what is happening with your Mental Health, you can also refer yourself to a service that works with Mental Health Challenges.


Mental health challenges are common but help is available and with the right support many people recover completely. Check out our Who Can Help Page for lots of services who are local and national!