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Be aware of the symptoms on World Bipolar Day

​An expert in bipolar disorder from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has urged anyone who thinks they may have the illness to seek help quickly so they can learn how to manage their symptoms and reduce the impact it has on their life.

Consultant Psychiatrist Judy Rubinsztein said that anyone who had experienced periods of depression and a manic or hypomanic episode, where they feel elated and overactive, should contact their GP, who will refer to NSFT services where appropriate.

The call comes on World Bipolar Day, which takes place annually on 30 March and coincides with the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who is believed to have had bipolar disorder. The day aims to raise awareness of the condition and fight stigma while showing that those who have it are capable of achieving great things.

“Bipolar can affect anyone at any age and causes a range of symptoms which relapse and remit in episodes,” said Dr Rubinsztein, who gave a presentation on cognitive impairment in bipolar disorder to an audience of international delegates at the Bristol Old Age Faculty Conference on Friday (24 March).

“People with a bipolar disorder have episodes where they are either depressed or manic. When manic the person feels elated or irritable; they have racing thoughts and do not sleep, and may make risky decisions such as overspending. If depressed, they feel very low and demotivated. They have poor sleep and may even feel suicidal. In the most severe cases, people will need to be admitted to an inpatient unit during these episodes so that they can receive medication and psychological support.

“It’s vitally important for people with a diagnosis to take mood stabilisers so that they don’t have such huge fluctuations. We also provide educational support to help service users recognise the early warning signs of a manic or depressed episode so that they can contact their care coordinator for immediate help to try and prevent it from developing fully.

“However, patients can still experience some residual symptoms outside of these main episodes. They may have ongoing cognitive problems and difficulties concentrating, even when their mood has improved. These in themselves can cause real difficulties as they can stop people from functioning properly and going back to work. In these cases, specialist therapies such as functional remediation, which focuses on trying to help people to function more effectively, can help, as long as the patient continues to take their mood stabilisers.”

NSFT offers a range of treatment for bipolar, including medication, psychological therapies and education, while lifestyle changes can also help.

To find out more about World Bipolar Day, visit