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i have a female friend who has been diganoised with bi-polar. we have been friends for 5 years. within the last 6 months seems to be getting worse. she always seems to be anger about something. if we going to the cinema is constaly always moaning about the children sitting behind us. she seems to have a low tolances level. and dosent seem to think she does anything wrong. and always saying it her mental health when things don't work out for her.

what do you think going on.


Hi Fionalou,

As much as it sounds like an excuse on her part, a mental health condition, such as bi-polar, can make a person say and do a lot of things they don't really mean. However, used too often and with no efforts to change things, it becomes a cop-out.

Bi- polar is characterised by its drastic high- low mood periods. Usually high periods are a lot shorter than the low periods- High periods can go from minutes and hours to a few days or a week. Low periods can last days to months. When in a high- period, characteristics include: compulsive spending, promiscuity, overly dramatic behaviour, risk-taking, fast talking & fantasy talk (amazing ideas that wouldn't realistically work), word-salad (mixing words up or creating their own words), hyper-activity & insomnia. Different people go through different things- from personal experience, it's more of a feeling that everything is slow and I'm fast; I get agitated if anything doesn't go my way; restless and needing to move. I also live half of my time in a fairy-world, thinking that I'm going to be 'The next big thing' (which is ironic really, seeing as I'm quite shy & hate the spotlight!). I swear alot and have compulsions to swear, want to fight everyone who pisses me off (because I feel really powerful & strong).

Before being able to control my episodes (or at least, see one coming!), I did a lot of self-destructive things: drank copious amounts of alcohol to the point of liver damage, slept around, ran up over £35,000 worth of credit card bills/rent arrears, etc, would stay up for days on end without sleeping or sitting down, would think I was going to become a pop-star, dress up in sexy, strange clothes (or none at all!) to go to the local shop & would start arguments with just about anyone.

These would last for as long as a week & then I would drop in to a month or more of depression. The depression was like living in my personally constructed hell. I would have audio hallcinations; suicidal thoughts; prickly skin sensations (so it hurt to hug or touch anyone else); severe social anxiety; fearful, obsessive & paranoid thoughts, to the point where I was counting knives to make sure none had gone missing (was convinced they would be used on me by a burgler!). And I would spend a lot of time, crouched up and crying in my flat, pulling my hair out (I still have a small bald patch!).

There is a spectrum of bi-polar: some people suffer severely with it, in that it is a constant battle of severe highs and lows. Some people have long periods of time where they are battling with it and their symptoms are not so as severe as those in a constant battle- they may have periods of time when the symptoms are not so noticable. And then some- a manic followed by a depressive episode is the consequence of a trigger; personal, career, health stress or/ and shock, etc.

There are ways to control it, but again, everyone is different & what may work for one, may not for another. Bi- polar does show evidence of an imbalance of brain chemicals associated with psychosis and severe depression (dopamine, serotonin, norapinephrine, etc) and most people diagnosed with bi-polar will be prescribed some type of anti-depressant/ anti-psychotic med. For some, it can take years to get the right medication and dose. Treating illnesses of the mind and brain are not quite the same as treating other organs and illnesses. As life experiences, lifestyle and genetics all play a huge part in mental health illnesses, it can be highly difficult to prescribe the right person to the right med & dose the very 1st time they report a mental health issue.

I'm guessing your friend has recieved meds- If your friend does not feel as if the meds she has been prescribed are working for her, she should consider asking for either her dose to be changed or a change in brand. What is she on?

Has she tried any other strategies? There is evidence that diet & exercise have an influence on bi-polar. Oily fish & nuts high in Omega oils have been shown to help mood swings & extreme low moods (they have mood balancing properties), as does a regular exercise schedule. If the exercise is a social activity with a competetive element- this is better, as it imposes 'goals'. Relaxation strategies & meditation has shown to help too. Also CBT- cognitive behavioural therapy: it facilitates the recognition of impending high/low periods and helps the sufferer to develop and pt in place strategies in order to lessen the actual episode or lessen the impact of an episode.

I hope this has shed some light on your friend's bi-polar....but now over to you. 

Unfortunately, you can't 'change' her. She could be living with Bi-polar for the rest of her life, but in a way- so could you be. It depends on how much this friendship means to you, as to whether you can be there for her throughout all her highs and lows, even if she doesn't think she's going through anything (often, we don't realise we're going through them!).

I lost quite a few friends throughout my highs and lows. In fact, since the start of my constructive fight back against my mental health illness, ALL my friends have changed. No one actually stuck with me throughout my worst periods of time, but I honestly can't blame them- I was awful and I wouldn't have been my friend!! However, I might have gone about it differently to my them- if it was an friend (not my best friend & not an aquaintance), I would probably keep them at a short distance during the worst periods of time. Certaintly not forget them or phase them out, but cut down on time with them and assess the situation on each visit. I would also possible talk to their nearest and dearest or anyone else they are close to who are aware of their condition, so that you still keep up-to-date & be there when they need you, but also have your own space.

The thing with mental health illness is that it effects everyone around the sufferer too, but in the sufferer's state of mind, it's not easy to recognise when others are feeling the effects of your behaviour.

Good luck with your problem.