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HealthInfo Canterbury

About bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder have periods of extreme low mood (depression) and periods of extreme high mood and excitability (hypomania or mania).

The periods of low or high mood and the times with normal mood in between vary from person to person.

Bipolar disorder is not being a moody person, but is a serious illness, affecting sufferers' day-to-day life. It can make ordinary living very difficult.

When a teenager develops bipolar disorder it can seem quite different from bipolar disorder in an adult. In teenagers, it often starts with psychotic symptoms, such as severe social withdrawal, and unusual thinking and beliefs. The classic pattern of very high moods followed by very low moods might not show for several years.


If you're concerned about someone's behaviour and think they may harm themselves or someone else, call the Police on 111.

If they're safe but in a crisis and need help, you can phone the Depression Helpline on 0800‑111‑757 (available 24/7) or Lifeline 0800‑543‑354 (available 24/7). Or you can contact your local mental health crisis team:

On the next page: Finding out if I have bipolar disorder

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2018.

See also:

Getting help for a mental health issue

Keeping physically healthy with a mental illness or addiction

Medications for mental health issues

Reading in Mind book scheme

Page reference: 496571

Review key: HIBIP-52193