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Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, sometimes still referred to as manic depression, is a severe mental illness characterised by mood swings between mania (highs) and depression (lows).

These mood swings can last for hours, days, weeks or months and are experienced by both men and women of all ages. Between one and two per cent of the population significantly experience bipolar during their lifetimes, but recent research suggests that as many as five per cent of people are on the bipolar spectrum. Episodes of mania or depression can be triggered by a range of things, such as pressure or stress at work or home. It can also be triggered by childbirth and the menopause.

How does bipolar affect people?

It depends on the person how severely their bipolar affects them. In most cases, with medical and non-medical treatment, people are fine.

However when they are experiencing a low or high they might:

  • Lose their inhibitions
  • Be hyperactive
  • Have disrupted sleep patterns
  • Have low self esteem and confidence not be able to concentrate.

Recruiting people with bipolar

  • Understand that bipolar is a fluctuating condition. The way someone presents at interview might not be how they are in the workplace
  • Discuss with them before interview what support they might require during the recruitment process
  • If you offer them a job, carry out a risk assessment to consider the impact of highs and lows on their role.

Supporting staff who have bipolar

Flexible working and reasonable time off to attend support services are simple ways to help people with bipolar to remain in work:

  • Boost confidence and self esteem by telling employees when they are doing things well
  • Work with individuals to identify any workplace triggers and seeing how they can be minimised or avoided
  • Consider asking another trusted employee to act as a ‘buddy’ or mentor to support the person with bipolar.

Useful information about bipolar

You might need to make some adjustments t help your employees. These could include specialist equipment like chairs and IT equipment. Grants are available through Access to Work to help to cover the cost of items that are identified as necessary to support employees who are disabled or have a health condition.

Take a look at our case studies to see how we have transformed the lives of disabled people.

Bipolar UK

Bipolar UK is the national charity dedicated to supporting individuals with the much misunderstood and devastating condition of bipolar, their families and carers.


Mind are a mental health charity working to make sure everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.


Rethink believe a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness.

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