Field Guide: What is Bipolar Disorder

I think as a current Bipolar afflicted person it would be proper of me to create a guide for those seeking to find out more about Bipolar. Since I have Bipolar I, I though why not try and share some of the research I have done with others.

What is Bipolar?

Bipolar is a condition where a persons mood can change from being overly down (Severe Depression) to overly elated (Hypomania/Mania). Those suffering from Bipolar will also have periods of being stable. Individuals will suffer Bipolar differently, some will have more severe elated moods (Mania), some will not. Some will suffer from severe downs and become suicidal, some will not. The fact is no two cases of Bipolar are the same.

Bipolar can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do anything else in your life.

Carrie Fisher

What Causes Bipolar

Doctors are not 100% sure what causes Bipolar in each individual, however they have some ideas on potential causes. Such as it being genetic (If your parents have it you’re more likely to also have it), stressful or traumatic events and alcohol/substance abuse. Any of those could be a factor in getting Bipolar.

Bipolar generally shows it self during a persons twenties or thirties, however it has been diagnosed in teenagers and older aged people too.

Signs of Bipolar

Everybody experiences Bipolar differently, however here are a few common signs/symptoms to look out for:

  • Low or Depressed Moods
  • A Sense of Hopelessness
  • Lack of Energy
  • Feelings of Guilt or Worthlessness
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Loss of interest in activities/sports
  • Sleep Problems
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Eating Problems

Signs of Manic Episodes:

  • Elevated or “High” Mood
  • Restlessness
  • Extreme Irritability
  • Talking Very Fast
  • Poor Judgement
  • Racing Thoughts and Ideas
  • Unable to Sleep
  • Risky Behaviour
  • Overuse of drugs and alcohol
  • Grandiose Spending Habits – Spends Money Rapidly
  • Doing Things Very Fast and Often (e.g. Excessive Cleaning)

Not everyone will exhibit all the signs of Bipolar, as like I mentioned it is different for each person. Although, a common sign I have heard most people have is excessive spending of money, with no worries of consequences when they are doing it. Lot’s of impulsive buying.

Where Can I Get Help

First of all don’t feel worried about seeking help. I was that person at first and I refused to believe that I had anything wrong with me, then I hit rock bottom and had a mental breakdown. Men are statistically speaking the ones who don’t seek help, and as a man myself I was in that category. My word of advice is “Don’t Suffer Alone”, go to your GP if it isn’t an emergency. However, if you feel suicidal you will probably be best calling a crisis line in your area or go to the Emergency Department. I would suggest you call 111, 911 or 999 (Depending where you live). I am an Ambulance Officer and I can assure you that we as a professional service will look after you.

Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Depression NZ

In New Zealand you have these options:

Depression NZ: 0800 111 757 or text 4202.

Other Agencies:

Alcohol Drug Helpline0800 787 797 
Alcoholics Anonymous Helpline  0800 229 6757
Gambling Helpline0800 654 655
Quitline0800 778 778
Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254


This is an area that I am still reading about myself. I personally take lithium and olanzapine to help keep my mood stable. The olanzapine is an anti-psychotic that is trying to keep my manic episodes at bay. Here are some common treatments used:

Avoid antidepressants. The treatment for bipolar depression is different than for regular depression. In fact, antidepressants can actually make bipolar disorder worse or trigger a manic episode. Try mood stabilizers first and never take antidepressants without them.

Take advantage of natural mood stabilizers. Your lifestyle can have a huge impact on your symptoms. If you make healthy daily choices, you may be able to reduce the amount of medication you need. Mood stabilizers that don’t require a prescription include keeping a strict sleep schedule, exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques, and developing a solid support system.

Add therapy to your treatment plan. Research shows that people who take medication for bipolar disorder tend to recover much faster and control their moods better if they also get therapy. Therapy gives you the tools to cope with life’s difficulties, monitor your progress, and deal with the problems bipolar disorder is causing in your personal and professional life.

Continue taking medication, even after you feel better. The likelihood of having a relapse is very high if you stop taking your bipolar medication. Suddenly stopping medication is especially dangerous. Talk to your doctor before you make any changes, even if you believe you no longer need medication. Your doctor can help you make any adjustments safely.

Finding the right bipolar disorder medication

It can take a while to find the right bipolar medication and dose. Everyone responds to medication differently, so you may have to try several bipolar disorder drugs before you find the one that works for you. Be patient, but don’t settle for a bipolar medication that makes you feel lousy, either. Are there any medical conditions that could be causing or exacerbating my mood swings?

In Closing

Don’t be afraid to seek help. I know it is a huge thing to do. I was the typical man with the “she’ll be right” attitude, which didn’t help me. It took a huge mental breakdown before I sought help, by that time it was too late I had caused so much damage over a 20 year period. You can read more about my story by following my blog.

This Field Guide is Available as an Audio File:

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