This information will be useful to you if you or your doctor are concerned about your mental health. You might have discussed the possibility of bipolar and you might have been referred to a specialist.

What is bipolar?

Bipolar is a severe, lifelong mental illness characterised by significant mood swings from manic highs to suicidal depression. Bipolar affects everyone differently and can be difficult to diagnose but there are some common signs to help you identify the illness.

Both men and women any age and of any social and ethnic background can develop bipolar. It can be triggered when work, studies, family and emotional stresses are at their greatest. For women it can also be triggered by childbirth or menopause.

The key to coping with bipolar is an early diagnosis, acceptance of the illness and adapting your lifestyle so you're in control of your symptoms. You can manage bipolar with medication, health care, therapy and self-management.

The Bipolar UK mood diary will help you and your doctor understand your mood swings.

Monitoring your moods

Over the next month, ideally around the same time every day and not first thing in the morning, make a note of how you feel on a scale of 0 to 10 and write a brief comment about how you feel. It might also be a good idea to ask family and friends as they might be able to offer useful insight into your behaviour. If you feel comfortable, you could complete the mood diary with someone close to you.

As well as recording where you are on the mood scale it's also a good idea to note

• Medication
• Hours of sleep you are getting
• Exercise

Those not affected by bipolar will usually have mood swings between 4 and 6 on the mood scale. If you have bipolar, your mood swings go way beyond these stable levels.

If you experience periods of depression you may feel extremely tired and sluggish, cry a lot for no reason, lose interest in activities you once enjoyed, lack confidence, feel hopeless and have irregular eating and sleeping patterns. This would be 2 to 3 on the mood scale.

If you are going high you might talk too fast, not need much sleep, have uncontrollable rapid thoughts, feel overconfident and over important, act impulsively and use poor judgement this would be 7 to 8 on the mood scale.

Download this leaflet as a PDF

Check out our blog What is bipolar?  for more stories and personal experiences of bipolar disorder and to learn more about getting a diagnosis, visit our Pre-diagnosis and newly diagnosed blog

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Together, we can support the person behind the diagnosis of bipolar.