Our population is ageing and consequently the number of people living with bipolar in later life is set to rise. There's been very little research or service development for older adults with bipolar, particularly with respect to psychological therapies.

A study running at the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health at Lancaster University aims to address this shortfall.

Dr Lizzie Tyler is leading the study, which has adapted a therapy for older people living with bipolar. The team are now looking for people to take part in the study where individuals are offered either 14 sessions of therapy or continue with their treatment as usual.

To take part in the study, individuals must be aged 60+, have a diagnosis of bipolar and live in the North West of England.

Cate (61) is currently taking part in the study and has nearly completed her 14 therapy sessions. She writes about her experience:

"Like a lot of people, I've changed since I've got older and the nature of my bipolar has changed too. It's quieter and my medication seems to suit me.

"All the same, I reflect now on what effect bipolar has had. I began to worry about the negative effect it's had on my life, my family, especially my sons and husband. It cost me many friends and I lost my job because of it. I began to be afraid that people didn't want me around and to believe that difficult experiences in the past were my fault. I was beginning to regret almost the whole of my life and lost confidence to do things I used to enjoy.

"I worried about the future, mostly because of family responsibilities. Even though I have grandchildren, I still had 'empty nest syndrome'.

"On the upside, I am a kinder person, keener to help others, and a better listener. Regretting the past and worrying about the future isn't a good way to live.

"When I first started the sessions, I felt unsure where I really needed therapy. We started looking at my past experiences, beginning the process of trying to put them into perspective. We considered the present day situations I'm in when I immediately think badly of myself, and think that I'm at fault.

"After a couple of sessions with the therapist, I felt more relaxed and was able to tell her episodes from the past that were troubling me and making me feel guilty and anxious. I'd never told anyone else at all about what had happened, so it did feel as though I was betraying myself in a way. We talked about how some of these things were not necessarily my fault and that some of them weren't unique to me. I felt then that I could start to put them into context and how they still affect my feelings now. I recorded some of the situations where these emotions kicked in.

"I'm keeping a written record of these incidents and I'm trying to find alternative thoughts and more positive ways of looking at the things that happen; the times when I immediately put myself in the wrong. I'm also recognising what triggers my feelings. Hopefully I'll be able to do this in my head eventually, rather than writing it down, and remember that 'feelings aren't facts'.

"It isn't easy to do this always, as I sometimes feel as though I am making up excuses for myself. On the other hand, negative thoughts and feelings are so destructive (and time-consuming!), that it is better to think of it as 'being kind to myself'. We've looked at a whole list of ‘thinking errors’ and I can identify with almost all of them! It's good to have them to go back to and realise that they're so common they've been written down. Other people make the same mistakes as me!

"I'm trying to learn to be kinder to myself, which is more difficult than it sounds after years of being hard on myself. I'm reading some books to help with guilty feelings and self-blame. We've been discussing mindfulness. It is taking some practice to concentrate on the here and now, and not keep drifting off into ruminating about the past and worrying about the future; I've found a course near to where I live to help me on with it.

"So from the start and wondering whether these sessions were really for me, the therapist has been able to help me see that the past doesn't need to control my present ways of thinking and feeling. I'm hoping that when the therapy comes to an end I'm going to have more confidence to cope with what life has in store. I'm going to keep up my friendships, not just so I can rely on my friends, but so that we'll be a support for each other. Everyone has things they need to share sometimes."

If anyone is interested in hearing more about the study or taking part then please contact Dr Lizzie Tyler on 07967 837938/ 01524 593171 or [email protected]

You can learn more about Bipolar UK's partnership with the study here.

You can also find more information on the Spectrum Centre's website.