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What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder (once called manic depression) is a medical condition which affects the brain, causing extreme mood changes – someone with this disorder may be very ‘high’ and over-excited or very ‘low’ and depressed, often with periods of normal moods in between.

The good news is that Bipolar disorder can usually be successfully treated – most people recover well from episodes of illness and can lead fulfilling lives.




What are the symptoms of Bipolar disorder?


People with Bipolar disorder can become high, over-excited and reckless, or imagine that they are more important or influential than they are in real life. They can also become extremely low, feeling helpless and depressed, with difficulty making decisions or concentrating. Some people mainly experience highs. Some experience mainly lows, and some experience both extremes — becoming profoundly depressed or over-excited. The person may then behave in an uncharacteristically irrational or risky manner.




What causes Bipolar disorder?


The causes of Bipolar disorder are not fully understood. As with any other illnesses, they are likely to be a combination of hereditary and other causes, but a genetic predisposition to develop the illness has been clearly established by scientists.




How many people are affected?


Up to one person in fifty will develop Bipolar disorder at some time in their lives. It happens to people from all ethnic backgrounds. Although it can appear at any age, it’s more likely to develop for the first time in the teens or twenties, and tends to affect more women than men.




How is Bipolar disorder treated?


Treatment can do much to reduce and even eliminate the symptoms. Treatment should generally include a combination of medication and community support. Both are usually essential for the best outcome:

  • Medication. Certain medications assist the brain to restore its usual chemical balance and help control the mood swings and depression. The symptoms of bipolar disorder generally react well to medication.

  • Community support programs. This support should include information; accommodation; help with finding suitable work; training and education; psychosocial rehabilitation and mutual support groups. Understanding and acceptance by the community is also very important.


 The above information has been reproduced with the kind permission of SANE Australia. You can access the host content by clicking here



What are the different types of Bipolar disorder?(3)


There are different types of bipolar disorder (2):

  • Bipolar I

    • Used to be referred to as ‘manic depression’

    • Characterised by a mania

    • More likely to feature a psychotic component

    • Bipolar I Disorder affects approximately 1% of Australians

    • More likely to require hospitalization

  • Bipolar II

    • Bipolar II is characterized by less extreme episode(s) of mania, known as hypomania.

  • Cyclothymia

    • Fluctuating mood symptoms

    • Milder mood swings than Bipolar I and Bipolar II

  • Bipolar not otherwise specified


For more information on the different types of Bipolar disorder, please follow this link:




  1. Sane Australia (2015) Bipolar Disorder                                                                                                          Available from: (accessed on 30/11/2015)

  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.

  3. Black Dog Institute (2015) Bipolar Disorder explained                                                                             Available from: (accessed on 30/11/2015)




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