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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 2 October, 2014

One third of people with bipolar disorder unable to work – report

Around 40,000 people in Ireland have bipolar disorder, but many were only diagnosed after experiencing symptoms for between 2 and 3 years.

File photo
File photo
Image: Hospital corridor via Shutterstock

MORE THAN ONE third of people with bipolar disorder are unable to work due to the impact on their lives, a report has found.

Figures show that many people with bipolar are only diagnosed after experiencing symptoms for between 2 and 3 years, while almost half of those surveyed have been admitted to hospital to manage manic episodes.

The figures were found in a survey into people’s experiences of bipolar disorder, which affects an estimated 1 in 100 people in Ireland.

Bipolar disorder causes bouts of depression alternating with periods of ‘highs’ for people who have it. Around 40,000 people in Ireland have it, with men and women equally affected.

Constultant psychiatrist at St James’s Hospital in Dublin Dr Paul Scully said it is “essential” to address the stigma surrounding the illness.

“From the public’s view there are various myths and a general lack of understanding surrounding the condition and often this can hinder those who would benefit from support accessing the services they need,” he said.

Dr Scully said that bipolar disorder is frequently misdiagnosed as depression, “so a greater understanding of the condition, both from a medical perspective and from that of parents and families, is vital”.

He was speaking at the launch of the ‘99 & Me‘ campaign which aims to tackle the misunderstanding that surrounds the condition and reduce the stigma around it.

Almost half of people with bipolar were diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 30, according to the research by Empathy Research and Lundbeck, with 25 cited as the average age of onset.

Statistics show that patients with bipolar often also have anxiety disorders as well as substance or alcohol abuse problems. The exact cause is unknown.

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