'Adapting Your Lifestyle Makes a Big Difference' Everyone Has Variations in Their Mood, but in Bipolar Disorder These Changes Can Be Distressing and Have a Big Impact. Here, the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) Explains How People Can Effectively Manage Their Condition

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

'Adapting Your Lifestyle Makes a Big Difference' Everyone Has Variations in Their Mood, but in Bipolar Disorder These Changes Can Be Distressing and Have a Big Impact. Here, the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) Explains How People Can Effectively Manage Their Condition


BIPOLAR disorder, sometimes known as manic depression, is a complex illness affecting between 1% and 5% of the population.

People with the condition have problems with their moods, experiencing periods, or 'episodes', of extreme highs (mania), and usually periods of depression.

It can also cause problems with thinking and perception, which can include delusions and hallucinations.

"I was diagnosed with depression when I was 23, but my bipolar disorder wasn't picked up until much later," said Anna Preece, a volunteer phone mentor at Bipolar UK.

"I was going through what I now know were manic episodes, but at the time I thought I was just 'happy'.

"It wasn't until a good friend sat me down and pointed out some of my manic behaviour that I started to ask for help.

"After seeing a lot of doctors, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar when I was 37.

"This gave me the push I needed to really do something to get back in control of my health."

Anna started attending a Bipolar UK support group in Cardiff which she claims saved her life.

She added: "Meeting other people with bipolar, talking to them and being able to relate to what they were saying was fantastic.

"It was such a relief to know that I was normal, and it helped me to identify which aspects of my behaviour were my personality and which were my illness.

"Being able to separate the two is very helpful - I know when it's me, I know when it's ill, and when it's ill I can do something about it.

"Now my illness is very well controlled with medication and self-management, but of course I still get blips".

Professor Ian Jones, director of the National Centre for Mental Health, said Anna has taken a proactive approach to her mental health.

He said: "Bipolar disorder is a condition that impacts on people over many years and while medication can help keep people well, understanding the illness and adapting your lifestyle can make a huge difference."

Professor Jones was one of the architects of Bipolar Education Programme Cymru (BEPC), a psychoeducation programme designed to help people learn more about the condition and better manage their symptoms.

There are 10 sessions, in groups of around eight to 12 people, each lasting for two hours. These combine presentations, informal group discussions and short exercises. The topics covered range from the causes of bipolar disorder and commonly prescribed medication, to psychological and lifestyle approaches to managing its symptoms.

Family members and carers of the group participants are also given the option to attend an additional session where they can find out more about bipolar disorder and meet other people in similar situations.

Anna took part in BEPC last year, alongside a close friend who also has bipolar disorder. "For somebody newly diagnosed this is a fantastic course - it can help you learn so much about the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder, which some people just can't get from their GP," said Anna.

"There are also some very practical elements you can take away from the course and use in everyday life to better manage your symptoms. …

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