The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Experts believe there are a number of factors that work togetherto make a person more likely to develop the condition.
These are thought to be a complex mix of physical, environmental and social factors.
Bipolar disorder is widely believed to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain.
The chemicals responsible for controlling the brain's functions are called neurotransmitters and includenoradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine.
There's some evidence that if there's an imbalance in the levels of one or more neurotransmitters, a person may develop some symptoms of bipolar disorder.
For example, there's evidence that episodes of mania may occur when levels of noradrenaline are too high, and episodes of depression may be the result of noradrenaline levels becoming t2>
It's also thought bipolar disorder is linked to genetics, as the condition seems to run in families. The family members of a person with the condition have an increased risk of developing it themselves.
However, no single gene is responsible for bipolar disorder. Instead, a number of genetic and environmental factors are thought to act as triggers.
A stressful circumstance or situation often triggers the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Examples of stressful triggers include:
These types of life-altering events can cause episodes of depression at any time in a person's life.
Bipolar disorder may also be triggered by:
Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings. The mood swings can range from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Episodes of mania and depression often last for several weeks or months.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Experts believe there are a number of factors that work together to make a person more likely to develop the condition. These are thought to be a complex mix of physical, environmental and social factors.
If your GP thinks you may have bipolar disorder, they'll usually refer you to a psychiatrist. Depending on your symptoms, you may also need tests to see whether you have a physical problem, such as an underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid .
Treatments aim to reduce the number and severity of the episodes of depression and mania that characterise bipolar disorder. In doing so, a person can live as normal a life as possible. However, with effective treatment, episodes usually improve within about three months.
Although it's usually a long-term condition, effective treatments for bipolar disorder, combined with self-help techniques, can limit the condition's impact on your everyday life. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising are an important way of limiting the risk of developing diabetes.
Watch a video about Rod, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1987. He describes his symptoms, the treatments offered to him and how he copes today.