Bipolar Disorder is a very common mental health problem affecting about 1 in 100 people worldwide. It is characterized my fluctuations in mood (mood swing) between feeling low (depression) and feeling high with reckless/impulsive behaviours (Mania).
Most of the time there is a family history of close family members having some sort of mood disorders i.e. depression or mania. It can also be secondary to stress or some physical health problems like tumours or brain degeneration.
Symptoms experienced by patients depends on which phase of Bipolar Disorder the patient is currently in i.e Depression, Mania or Mixed Affective (Mood) state. Patients experiencing severe depression or mania can also start experiencing psychotic symptoms like hearing or seeing things when nobody is around or feeling that somebody may harm them in some way.
You need a thorough assessment by a Psychiatrist and long term follow up usually. The Psychiatrist would usually undertake some investigations to rule out other physical causes for this illness.
Usually when patients are in high mood they are reluctant to take medication or accept treatment. The first and most important role of psychiatrists and relatives is to generate Insight ( making the patient realize that they are unwell) in the patient.
The initial treatment when people are high consists of mood stabilizers which could also be antipsychotic medications. If people are depressed than still the treatment largely consists of mood stabilizers but an antidepressant may be considered alongside. Under no circumstances anti depressants alone are prescribed to patients with bipolar disorder.
In short term, tranquilizers/ sedatives may be useful but in long term mood stabilizers will continue for several months to years.
Psychotherapy may also be useful to increase persons understanding of the illness and to help in the depressive phase.
Please also look at leaflets for Sleep Hygiene and Stress Management, as good sleep and stress management can reduce relapses significantly.