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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. The term ‘bipolar’ means that there are two extremes of mood – depressed (‘low’) and manic (‘high’). There are varying severities of this disorder. Mild cases may pass for normal for many years. In severe cases, the person may become agitated or psychotic.

Bipolar disorder infographics 
Source: VOICES, Jul-Sep15 issue, a publication by Central Singapore CDC  

Signs and Symptoms

Depression and mania usually occur in episodes. Different individuals will have different symptoms. For example, one patient may be predominantly depressed, and another may be predominantly manic.

In between episodes, the patient is likely to be quite well and to function normally.

When depressed, the patient:

  • feels persistently sad
  • feels hopeless
  • feels lethargic
  • experiences disturbances in sleep and appetite
  • feels excessively guilty
  • feels negative
  • feels suicidal

When manic, the patient behaves quite differently. He / she: 

  • becomes overly elated and energetic
  • becomes more irritable
  • requires less sleep
  • has racing thoughts
  • talks very quickly
  • makes many grand plans
  • may believe that he has supernatural powers, or a special mission
  • may impulsively engage in potentially dangerous behaviour


Medication is the main treatment option. Mood stabilisers, antidepressants, anti-psychotics and sedatives can be used in different combinations, depending on individual presentations, to treat acute episodes and to help prevent a relapse. It may take a few days to a few weeks for them to produce optimal effect.

Patients who are very ill may benefit from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). General anesthesia has allowed ECT to become a relatively safe and painless procedure.

Psychological therapy is an option for patients who are more stable, to help them with symptom recognition and management.

To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call 6389 2200.

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