What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) refers to symptoms that involve periods of feeling very low and periods of feeling very high which can be described as ‘manic’ or ‘hypomanic’ episodes.
While everyone experiences fluctuations in mood, the depressive, manic or hypomanic episodes experienced by individuals with bipolar disorder significantly impact on the person’s relationships, work or education, and day-to-day life.
Bipolar disorder can vary greatly amongst individuals, episodes can last for three to six months and occur every few years while others may experience shorter but more frequent episodes.
Manic and hypomanic episodes
Mania and hypomania are unusual and persistent periods of elevated mood and increased activity or energy which may also involve:
- exaggerated self-esteem or feelings of an unrealistic sense of superiority
- reduced need for sleep
- rapid thought and speech, which is often difficult to follow
- high distractibility
- increased activity
- risky or inappropriate behaviour
- agitation, restlessness, and feeling on edge
Manic episodes are greater in severity and duration (episodes last at least seven days) where as hypomania is described as a milder form of mania as it is associated with a shorter duration (at least four days).
Depressive episodes are characterised by one or both of the following:
- feelings of sadness, emptiness or lowered mood that lasts for most of the day, nearly every day
- loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable, like going out, seeing friends, or pursuing interests and hobbies.
These symptoms are experienced persistently for at least two weeks, along with several other symptoms over the same period. These symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:
- significant changes in appetite and/or weight in the absence of dieting
- difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
- slowed speech or physical movements
- agitation or restlessness
- fatigue or loss of energy
- feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness, or excessive guilt
- trouble concentrating or making decisions
- thoughts of suicide or a feeling that life is not worth living.
Treatment for Bipolar
If you feel these symptoms sound like you it is very important to speak with your GP who may also refer you to a psychiatrist.
Bipolar can be treated using a number of methods however to determine which treatment is best suited, Kathryn will ask questions about the individual’s history, circumstances, thoughts, feelings and behaviours to gain an understanding of factors that might be contributing to the person’s difficulties and work out a treatment best suited to the client.
Further Reading & Support
Australian Psychological Society
Australia’s largest professional association for psychologists
Black Dog Institute
Provides up to date information and resources on bipolar and related disorders
A collaborative research team which studies psychosocial issues in bipolar disorder
Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation, providing young people with assistance and information on mental health issues
A 24-hour counselling, suicide prevention and mental health support service
Telephone: 13 11 14
NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK)
Provides the public with information on bipolar disorder
Provides support, training, and education for Australians affected by mental illness