What is bipolar disorder?

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Kim Kardashian West has urged compassion for her husband Kanye West as she spoke about his bipolar disorder after he shared a string of concerning tweets.

In recent weeks, the megastar rapper has said he is planning to run to become US president and has made claims about his family life.

Here the PA news agency explains more about bipolar disorder.

– What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that shows itself through significant mood swings.

Those diagnosed with the condition have episodes of manic highs and depressive lows.

There is also the possibility of some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes.

A sufferer told the mental health charity Mind: "It's an emotional amplifier: when my mood is high I feel far quicker, funnier, smarter and livelier than anyone; when my mood is low I take on the suffering of the whole world."

– How many people suffer from it?

Three million people in the UK have bipolar, according to the Bipolar UK national support charity.

It describes it as one of the UK's common long-term conditions, and says it takes an average of nine years to get a correct diagnosis of bipolar.

There is a misdiagnosis an average of 3.5 times, the charity says.

– Is there just one type of bipolar disorder?

People may be diagnosed with a specific type of bipolar disorder, bipolar I, bipolar II or cyclothymia.

People can experience the moods and symptoms in different ways and with different levels of severity.

Someone who is diagnosed as bipolar I will have had at least one episode of mania which lasted longer than a week.

Kanye West performing on The Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)
Kanye West performing on The Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)

They may also have had depressive episodes.

Those with bipolar II will have had both at least one episode of severe depression and hypomania, namely periods of being over-active and excited behaviour.

Someone may be diagnosed with cyclothymia if they have experienced both hypomanic and depressive mood states over the course of two years or more and their symptoms aren't severe enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar I or bipolar II.

– Is there a cause or cure?

Research has still not led to either a consensus on the cause or a cure.

According to Bipolar UK, some research suggests that there is, if not a known genetic link, then certainly an inherited predisposition to developing bipolar.

It is also known that stressful life events may often precede an episode of mania, hypomania or depression.

– How can it be treated?

Medication may be offered during a depressive episode and treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy or talking treatments may be suggested.

The aim of treatment should be to help people maintain stable moods, manage their symptoms well and to feel supported, according to Mind.

Antipsychotics, lithium, anticonvulsants and antidepressants are among the medications which could be prescribed by psychiatrists or GPs.

Kim Kardashian West (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Kim Kardashian West (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Current and past symptoms, such as whether patients are having a manic or depressive period, how long previous episodes have lasted and what has triggered them can all have an impact on what medication is offered.

The physical health of the sufferer, particularly whether they have diabetes, kidney or weight problems and how likely they are keep on taking their medication, are also key.

– How can friends and family help?

The condition can be distressing for friends and family.

Mind suggests they could try to be open to talking to someone about what is happening in order to feel they have support.

Ima focus on the music now

— ye (@kanyewest) July 21, 2020

Sorting out a plan with a loved one while they are well, to try and cope with their manic episodes could help.

It could include a range of things such as doing something creative, helping them keep a routine including regular meals and a good sleep pattern or managing their money while they are unwell, according to Mind.