Many people experience a lifelong tendency to substantial swings of mood (which may be referred to as bipolarity or cyclothymia). Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression or manic-depressive illness, refers to severe episodes of mood disturbance that affect a person’s ability to function normally. Bipolar disorder is thought to affect 1 in every 100 adults at some time during their life and men and women appear to be affected equally.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by disturbances in mood ranging from depression to elation. Although it may be enjoyable to have these “highs” (feeling life is great, overconfident, etc.,) the symptoms often become unmanageable and an individual may become argumentative, irritable, and impulsive. These moods may also be accompanied by alterations in thinking and perception, including psychotic features (delusions and hallucinations). It is now well established that bipolar disorder runs in families and that genes play a role in influencing an individual’s susceptibility to the illness. Studies suggest that the brain systems involved in controlling our moods function differently in people who develop bipolar disorder and that things like life stress can play a major role in triggering mood episodes.
Bipolar disorder can cause a great deal of suffering and, although treatments such as medication and psychotherapy are helpful, there are still many people who do not adequately respond to treatments or who suffer troublesome side effects.
The aim of our research is to investigate how genetic factors and environmental factors (such as stressful life events) interact and influence susceptibility to bipolar disorder. It is hoped that by increasing our understanding of these factors developments may be made in the prevention and treatment of this debilitating disorder.
Over 6,000 people have taken part in the Bipolar Disorder Research Network. As everyone’s experience of illness is different it has been important for us to see as many people as possible to enable the best possible understanding of the broad spectrum of bipolar illness.
The aim of this website is to provide information for all those interested in our mood disorders research. The links at the top of this page will take you to pages providing further information about our research, the media attention that our research has received and the progress of our research to date.