We all experience Ups and Downs in our lives depending on the events that are happening around us. For people with Bipolar Disorder they experience extreme changes in their moods, energy and activity levels that interfere with their daily lives and relationships. Bipolar Affective Disorder formerly known as manic depression describes a range of brain conditions that vary in the intensity and frequency of mood swings a person experiences, affecting around two percent of the population.

While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, genetics along with life stressors play a key role in its development. Both men and women are equally affected, in which the disorder often develops in the late teens or early adult years, typically before age 25.


Mania or Manic Episode:

Mood Changes:

• A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood

• Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling “jumpy” or “wired.”

Behavioral Changes:

• Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts

• Being easily distracted

• Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects

• Being restless

• Sleeping little

• Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities

• Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.

Depression or Depressive Episode:

Mood Changes:

• A long period of feeling worried or empty

• Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.

Behaviorial Changes:

• Feeling tired or “slowed down”

• Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions

• Being restless or irritable

• Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits

• Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.

In addition to mania and depression, bipolar disorder can cause a range of moods, as shown on the scale.


If you think you or someone close to you may be experiencing Bipolar disorder, speaking with your doctor or mental health professional will be important. Bipolar disorder is a serious medical condition and like heart disease or diabetes there is no cure, however, with the correct treatment and support most people live full and active lives.

Because bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness a long-term treatment plan is needed to manage and control the symptoms. An effective treatment plan will include a combination of medication and psychotherapy that are tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

As everyone is different, it is important to note that it may take time to find the right combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Sometimes if a person becomes very distressed or is in an acute state of mania, a hospital admission may offer the best solution until the symptoms are stabilized. Learning more about this condition, along with its symptoms and treatment options is often one of the most helpful things friends or family members can do to support a loved one.

Other strategies such ensuring general wellbeing like getting enough sleep, eating well, and being physically active even at times of crisis can help individuals to stay well and prevent relapses.

Online Resources

National Institute of Mental Health Information –  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

Specialist Expertise in Depression and Bipolar Disorder – http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/index.cfm

Bipolar Disorder Education Program – Online Modules for Understanding and Managing Bipolar Disorders – http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/bipolardisorder/bipolareducationprogram.cfm

National Institute of Mental Health Information – http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

SANE Australia, the National Mental Health Charity – http://www.sane.org.uk/resources/about_mental_illness/

National Institute of Mental Health – http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml