Bipolar disorder

If you think you might have bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Find out more about the condition and what to do if you’re affected by it.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a disorder in which your mood become extremely high or low, with episodes lasting for days or weeks on end.

It affects one in 100 people and tends to begin later in adolescence, with symptoms usually starting between the ages of 15 and 19 in young people.

Celebrities like Demi Lovato have spoken publicly about bipolar disorder, and show that even if you’re affected by it, with the right treatment you can get on with life and continue doing the things you enjoy.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can come and go – they won’t necessarily be present all the time. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • extreme mood swings
  • manic episodes, which can involve talking a lot, racing thoughts, over confidence, increased activity
  • difficulty with concentration
  • low mood
  • decreased energy
  • disturbed sleep - feeling like you hardly need sleep (mania) or having difficulty sleeping (depression)
  • reduced appetite
  • thoughts of self-harm
  • psychosis - if manic, this might consist of beliefs that you have special powers or abilities

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by bipolar disorder. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

What to do about bipolar disorder

Take the first step – if you think you are affected by bipolar disorder, talk to your GP or school counsellor.

If your GP thinks you might be affected, they should refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or a specialist psychiatrist.

Treating bipolar disorder

The first stage of treatment is to get your mood changes under control. During manic episodes, you may be offered an antipsychotic drug, or a drug to stabilise your mood, such as lithium.

You may then be offered individual, family or group psychological therapy that can help with symptoms and help to reduce the risk of you getting unwell again.

Once your mood swings are under control, you could also benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you understand your thoughts and behaviour better, and help you think of things differently.

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

Text: YM to 85258

Opening times: 24/7


Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

Phone: 116 123

Email: [email protected]

Opening times: 24/7


If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

Phone: 0800 1111

Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year

The Mix

Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

Email support available via their online contact form.

Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

Free short-term counselling service available.

Phone: 0808 808 4994

Opening times: 4pm - 11pm, seven days a week

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