bipolar; disorder; disorders; manic; depression; depressed; mania; hypomania; delusions; mental; health; suicide; psychosis; psychotic;
Bipolar disorder is a treatable mental health problem, which causes episodes of dramatic changes in mood, thought, energy and behaviour. These changes are caused by changes in the way parts of the brain work, particularly neurotransmitters (chemicals which carry messages from one nerve cell to another in the brain). It is not a sign of personal weakness.
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because a person’s mood can alternate between the 'poles' of mania (highs) and depression (lows). These changes in mood or 'mood swings' can last for hours, days, weeks or months. Between these mood swings, the person has times of quite normal moods.
Bipolar disorder affects about 3% of the population. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during teen years) although it can start in childhood or later in life. An equal number of men and women develop this illness and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. It tends to run in families - a young person is more likely to develop bipolar disorder if a parent has the disorder.
Like many illnesses, there can be a combination of factors that trigger episodes of mood changes. Emotional and physical stress, lack of sleep and substance use (including caffeine and other stimulants) can all trigger an episode. Sometimes there is no obvious trigger for an episode.
Many people with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, which can make the mood swings worse, and well as causing harm due to the specific drug.
Like depression and other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can also negatively affect partners, family members, friends and co-workers.
Information about bipolar disorder
There is extensive information about bipolar disorder, including information about diagnosis and treatment on the 'beyondblue' website - the national depression initiative (Australia)
There is also a lot of information about bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders on the Reachout website
If you feel some immediate action needs to be taken, check the emergency agencies in your telephone book.
In South Australia
- Assessment Crisis Intervention Service (ACIS) Ph: 13 14 65
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Crisis Care Unit: 13 16 11
- Youth Healthline 1300 13 17 19 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm
- Kid's Helpline 1800 55 1800
Other resources in South Australia
Information in languages other than English
Mental Health in Multicultural Australia
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).