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. This occurs in at least 1% of the population. Bipolar disorder is characterised by disturbances in mood ranging from depression to elation (extremely high mood).
These mood changes may also be accompanied by alterations in thinking and perception, including psychotic features (delusions and hallucinations). 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 respond adequately or who suffer troublesome adverse side effects.
We know that there can be a variety of factors that lead some people to experience depression or mania, for example, a vulnerability that runs in the family or stressful life events. Our group is conducting research to examine more closely the factors which contribute to mood disorders. These include biological factors, such as a genetic predisposition, as well as psychological factors, such as characteristic ways of thinking, and environmental factors, for example stressful life events.
Our research, aimed at improving our understanding of mood disorders, will facilitate future advances in the prevention and treatment of these debilitating illnesses.