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 affects 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. These moods 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 effects.
We know that there can be a variety of factors which lead some people to experience depression or mania, for example, stressful life events, or a vulnerability which runs in the family. Our research team, based jointly at Cardiff University and Birmingham University, is conducting research to examine more closely the factors which contribute to mood disorders. These may include biological factors, such as a genetic predisposition, as well as environmental factors, for example stressful life events. Such research, aimed at improving our understanding of mood disorders, will facilitate future advances in the prevention and treatment of these debilitating illnesses.
The Mood Disorders Research Team at Cardiff University, led by Professor Nick Craddock, produce an annual newsletter with the aim of providing updated information about our work to everyone who has so generously given up their time to participate in our studies. The last two editions of our newsletter can be viewed using the links at the top right hand side of this page.
You may be interested to read about Stephen Fry's experience of bipolar disorder and how he kindly participated in our bipolar research study (Stephen Fry Visit).