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Ruby Wax lives with a mental health condition that affects ‘one in 100’ people – bipolar

Having frequented the mental health hospital The Priory in her past, Ruby Wax became “curious” about the inner workings of the mind. “I was curious as to what would actually get the best results as far as changing your brain,” she said. Embracing mindfulness, the 69-year-old has noticed how the practice has benefited her.

“Just like if you went to the gym every day, eventually you’d start noticing [the effects of mindfulness],” she told The Sunday Morning Herald.

“I can tell that I can focus longer, and I can breathe – it’s not 100 per cent,” she continued.

“But sometimes, when a situation is stressful and I could have a trigger reaction, I can hold it back for a few seconds.”

Speaking to The Guardian in 2011, Wax revealed that, at first, people had mistaken her bipolar condition for “glandular fever”.

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What is bipolar disorder?

The NHS says: “Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.”

Previously regarded as manic depression, people who suffer from the condition have episodes of depression and mania.

“Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer),” the NHS clarifies.

The NHS adds: “You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before you have a manic episode (sometimes years later), after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.”

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During a manic episode, the person affected man feel:

  • Feel very happy
  • Have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas.

Moreover, a person experiencing a manic episode may “spend large amounts of money on things [they] cannot afford and would not normally want”.

It’s also common during a manic episode for the person to not want to eat or sleep; they may become annoyed easily, and talk quickly.

Psychosis could also occur, which is when a person sees or hears things that are not really there.

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In a depressive episode, there may be overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which could lead to suicidal ideation.

Anybody experiencing suicidal ideation can contact the Samaritans for free on 116 123.

What causes bipolar disorder?

While the exact cause is not yet known, there are a number of factors that could trigger an episode.

Examples of triggers include:

  • Extreme stress
  • Overwhelming problems
  • Life-changing events
  • Genetic and chemical factors.

“Bipolar disorder is fairly common,” the NHS says, “one in every 100 people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their life.”

Ruby Wax stars in Trailblazers: A Rocky Mountain Road Trip, which is showcasing on Monday, November 28 at 9pm on BBC Two.

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