What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes drastic shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. Moods may shift from elated and energised, which we call manic episodes, to sad and hopeless moods, called depressive episodes. There are two kinds of bipolar, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. Both Bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 can have depressive episodes, however in Bipolar 1 the depressive episodes alternate with manic episodes and in Bipolar 2 they get hypomanic (similar to mania but less severe) episodes.

The causes of Bipolar Disorder are multifactorial; both biological (including genetic) and environmental factors have been identified. At times a depressive episode in a person with Bipolar Disorder can be mistaken for a unipolar depression (Major Depressive disorder), if a thorough history is not taken to exclude any previous manic or hypomanic episodes. Although difficult to diagnose as bipolar disorder may not fit neatly into the diagnostic criteria’s in the case of children and teenagers, with the help of a psychiatrist, it can be managed with therapy and medication.

How do I know I have bipolar disorder?

Because bipolar disorder is categorised by highs and lows in mood, the following symptoms may be displayed:

Manic or hypomanic episodes may vary in severity but include symptoms such as:

  • Increased energy and activity
  • Abnormally upbeat and jumpy
  • Exaggerated self-confidence and euphoria
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts and ideas
  • Distractibility that may be mistaken for ADHD and anxiety.
  • Poor decision making regarding risky behaviour
  • A psychotic break from reality including symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations or delusions


Depressive episodes may include:

  • Low depressed, hopeless and sad mood
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of interest
  • Ideation of suicide
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping

All of these symptoms may affect day-to-day activities including the ability to work or do school work, affect relationships and normal social activities. Often poor decision making regarding sexual activities, money and crime are common amongst those going through a manic episode. Furthermore, bipolar disorder has been linked to substance abuse, anxiety disorders, ADHD and eating disorders and are at higher risk of thyroid disease, migraines, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. However, with proper diagnosis by Dr Mhlane, individuals suffering from bipolar disorder can lead healthy and productive lives with accurate treatment and management.

How can Dr Tsepiso Mhlane help?

When it comes to mental wellness, Dr Mhlane is a compassionate psychiatrist who strives for a person-centred approach to care. She offers guidance in treatment for a range of mental illnesses and disorders in order to enhance your life and ensure you are in full control of your behaviour. It is essential that, if you suspect you may be experiencing extreme ups and downs, to seek professional help and treatment to live a fulfilling life and prevent damage to relationships, substance abuse and self-harm that is common among those suffering from bipolar disorder.

A combination of medication, psychoeducation and therapy are what she finds most successful in treating patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Medications such as mood stabilisers, antipsychotics, anxiolytics and antidepressants may be used to manage mania and depression. Psychoeducation aimed at getting to know the signs and symptoms of their condition and how to seek help and support from their loved ones when they need it. Whether therapy is done by Dr Mhlane or by a specialised psychologist, she aims to aid her patients towards a positive outlook and wellbeing with Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Psychotherapy aimed at identifying unhealthy behaviours and promoting healthy, positive ones.