Bipolar Disorder

One of the top mental health issues in Canada, according to a 2020 report by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is bipolar disorder. As a clinic, we have also experienced an uptick in clients reporting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder over the past decade.


What is Bipolar Disorder


So, what is bipolar disorder? According to the NIMH, Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is defined as a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Bipolar disorder is divided into 3 types, each presenting with different symptoms and intensity. All three types present clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.

Emotional Highs


These moods are characterised by periods of extreme “high,” where the person is feeling elated, irritable, or highly energized, known as manic episodes. When a person is experiencing a manic episode, they could be presenting with many of the following symptoms:

  • An increased level of energy and “euphoria”
  • Abnormally upbeat or jumpy
  • Easily distractible
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid speech
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Poor decision making

In this state, people tend to partake in more risky behaviours, such as an increased in spending or investments, or in risky sexual behaviours.



Emotional Lows

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They are also similarly characterised by periods of extreme “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods known as depressive episodes (NIMH). These extreme periods can range from days to weeks. Persons in this state present with many of the following symptoms:

  • A depressed mood which would include feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • A distinct loss of interest in things that used to interest them, marked by withdrawals from these activities
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of energy, fatigue or restlessness
  • Desire for prolonged sleep, or insomnia
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide


People diagnosed with bipolar could also experience mood fluctuations that lasts for hours, and not days.

Due to the extreme changes in moods and behaviours, people with bipolar would have difficulty in maintaining close relationships at home, in school, and at work.

Bipolar disorder may be diagnosed in late adolescence to early adulthood, and sometimes, though rare, in children. Bipolar is known to run in families. Those who are predisposed and are therefore more vulnerable, may be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, or drugs and alcohol.


Living with Bipolar


Do you know someone who presents with some of the above symptoms?

If you do, have a chat with them to see if they would see a mental health professional. Some of our counsellors are trained to treat Mood Disorders, and many have years and years of experience in this area.

Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong condition, however, with a well-constructed Treatment Plan and likely medication (with recommendations by a medical doctor or psychiatrist), folks with Bipolar can learn to live full lives with stable and healthy relationships.

If you know someone we can help, call us today at 604-484-2737 to book a 15-min free consultation.


What to do in an Emergency or Crisis


Should anyone you know share their plans for suicide with you, there are several things you could do:

  • Call 911 immediately, or
  • Take them to the nearest ER as soon as possible, or
  • Call the BC Crisis Line 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE), or
  • Call Talk Suicide Canada 1-833-456-4566


Stay with the person until help arrives. Do not leave them on their own.



Counsellors who treat Bipolar Disorder