Bipolar Disorder and University
With International Bipolar Day on the 30th March it’s good to know some of the signs and symptoms of the disorder and how to cope with it, especially in university.
Bipolar is like having two illnesses in one, so there’s two types of symptoms: manic and depressive. People can have manic episodes, depressive episodes or a mixture called “mixed episodes” where they feel both manic and depressed. These episodes usually last for a few months at a time, but they can also last as little as a few days or as long as a few years.
Mania is the “up” side of bipolar where you have excessive energy and you feel really happy/irritable. This can feel amazing for many people, and can even be incredibly productive, especially in hypomania (the less severe form of mania).
Here are some of the main symptoms of mania:
Spending/impulsivity: This is what most people associate with mania. Some people can spend all of their money, change uni courses without thinking about it and even put themselves in dangerous situations.
Energy: Manic people tend to have lots of energy and can spend all night and day writing, cleaning and studying. It can also make people really, really angry or really really happy.
Sleep: People who are manic tend to need very little sleep to feel fully awake, some not sleeping at all.
Talking: People with mania can talk very fast and a lot, and sometimes feel the need to talk regardless if they have anything important to say which is called ‘pressured speech’.
Depression is the “down” side where you have low energy, you feel really empty and have a very low self esteem. This doesn’t feel good at all and can be debilitating for some people.
Here are some of the main symptoms of depression:
Isolation: Depressed people tend to hide away from others in their room. This can be really obvious and worrying to flatmates, friends and family.
Low Energy: When depressed, everything can feel very difficult and tiring.
Mess: Some people can stop taking care of their selves and their living spaces when depressed and this can be really difficult for flatmates, especially if they stop picking up their slack in flat cleaning.
Hopelessness/ Guilt: This can be really subtle, but some people feel like their futures aren’t going
anywhere or they take too much blame and guilt for things they shouldn’t.
These are only some of the main symptoms of bipolar but everyone is different and can feel episodes differently. Regardless, here are some healthy ways to cope:
- 1. Avoid alcohol. Drinking at uni can be a lot of fun, but with bipolar it can trigger episodes or even exaggerate ones you are already going through.
- Have a daily routine. This is fundamental for avoiding episodes. Eat, sleep and exercise at the same times every day.
- Journal your feelings. Keeping track of your moods can help you stay self aware of episodes and to let out all of you emotions that can build up.
- Seek help. Speak to your friends and family. Speak to professionals. Speak to your tutor. Everybody is here to help!
- Intuition. Listen to your body and mind! You know what works for you and what doesn’t. Be you, know yourself and know you can get through this and lead a normal life!
Who to speak to:
It’s important you speak to someone if you or somebody you know might be dealing with this as it can very quickly spiral out of control without proper management and support systems. Here are some places you can reach out to:
Samaritans: 116 123 (UK)
Bipolar UK: https://www.bipolaruk.org//
Lifelink: https://lifelink.org.uk (552 4434 (UK))
You can find out more about the symptoms and diagnosis of Bipolar from the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Bipolar-disorder/
Luke Burr, student living at Foundry Courtyard
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