Bipolar disorder is:
• Like schizophrenia, a brain disease with concrete and specific symptoms due to physical and biochemical changes in the brain.
• Almost always treatable with medication.
• Affects roughly 2 people in 100 – that’s about 674,000 Canadians, including over 88,000 British Columbians.

Signs and symptoms
(Excerpted from the Mood Disorders Association of B.C.)

The distinction between bipolar disorder and other depressive disorders is that patients swing from depression to mania, generally with periods of normal moods in between the two extremes. Some patients, however, cycle from mania to depression and back within a few days and without a period of normal mood. People with this condition are called “rapid cyclers.”

Symptoms of a manic phase of bipolar illness include:
• A mood that seems excessively good, euphoric or expansive
• Expressions of unwarranted optimism and lack of judgment
• Hyperactivity and excessive plans or participation in numerous activities (that may have a chance for painful results)
• Flight of ideas, grandiose plans
• Racing thoughts
• Impulse buying, overspending
• Sleeplessness
• Distractibility – attention easily diverted to inconsequential details
• Sudden irritability, rage, or paranoia

On the depressive side of the illness the symptoms are the same as unipolar depression – feelings of worthlessness, prolonged sadness, irritability, withdrawal from activities, physical pain, and so on.

More information on bipolar disorder

Internet Mental Health
A detailed description of bipolar disorder, including causation, prevalence, symptoms, course of the illness, treatment and outcome, plus reference material.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families
From the Expert Consensus Guideline Series.

Help for families and those with bipolar disorder

For family members: The Family Support Centre covers all serious mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder. Specific programs helping families deal with the illness include the family support group, one-on-one peer counselling, and our Family-to-Family education program.

For those with a mood disorder: The Mood Disorders Association of B.C. runs support groups for those suffering from the illness and provides a wide range of specialized materials and resources.

For more resources, please check Books and Resources, in our Information section.