Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Bipolar disorder

3-minute read

Bipolar disorder is a condition where people experience extreme moods. It was previously known as 'manic depression'.

People with bipolar disorder experience periods or 'episodes' of:

  • extreme lows, or depression - where they feel very low and lethargic
  • extreme highs, or mania - where they feel very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as 'hypomania')

There are 2 main types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar disorder I - where people are more likely to experience mania for longer periods of time, as well as depressive episodes and sometimes psychotic symptoms. This is the more severe form of bipolar disorder
  • Bipolar disorder II - people generally have shorter, less severe episodes of mania (hypomania) and depressive episodes. In between, they may have periods where their mood is relatively normal

There are also people who experience 'mixed episodes' where they can feel some of the signs and symptoms of both depression and mania.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood the person is experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode can last for several weeks or longer, and some people may not experience a 'normal' mood very often.

Depression

The depression phase of bipolar disorder is often diagnosed first. You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before having a manic episode later (sometimes years later), after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.

If you're feeling suicidal or having severe depressive symptoms, contact your doctor, or the local mental health emergency services as soon as possible.

If you can't or don't want to contact these people, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can call them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Mania

During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy and have lots of ambitious plans and ideas. You may spend large amounts of money on things that you cannot afford and would not normally want. Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of the manic phase of bipolar disorder.

During the manic phase, you may feel very creative and view mania as a positive experience. However, during the manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may also have symptoms of psychosis (where you see or hear things that are not there or become convinced of things that are not true).

Where to get help

If you need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. If you'd like to find out more, or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) – online help
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) – call 13 11 14 or chat online
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) – call 1300 659 467
  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) – call 1800 18 7263
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) – call 1300 22 4636 or chat online

You can also visit Head to Health, an online gateway funded by the Australian Government that can help you find free and low-cost, trusted phone and online mental health resources, including information about bipolar and related disorders.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness in which people can go between periods of elevated or ‘high’ moods (mania) and depressed or ‘low’ moods (depression).

Read more on Australian College of Mental Health Nurses website

Treatment for bipolar disorder | Bipolar disorder | ReachOut Australia

Its crucial to seek help for bipolar disorder from a mental health professional, so that you dont feel youre in this alone.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

What is bipolar disorder? | Bipolar disorder | ReachOut Australia

Learn about the symptoms, causes & different types of bipolar disorder. Find what can you do next if you get diagnosed with this type of a mood disorder.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Bipolar Disorder - WayAhead

Bipolar disorder is persistent changes in mood, characterised by periods of either very elevated moods (hypomania or mania) or very low moods (depression).

Read more on WayAhead Mental Health Association NSW website

Bipolar disorder | Your Health in Mind

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects a persons mood and energy levels.

Read more on RANZCP - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists website

Self-management for bipolar disorder | Bipolar disorder | ReachOut Australia

Read on to find some tips on coping with your bipolar disorder effectively by following the self-help strategies provided by ReachOut.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

How to help a friend with bipolar disorder | Bipolar disorder | ReachOut Australia

Knowing they have the support of friends and family is really important for someone living with bipolar disorder.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Bipolar disorder | ReachOut Australia

Severe mood swings make normal day to day living feel impossible. But with the right treatment and support, living with bipolar disorder is manageable.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Support services for bipolar disorder | Bipolar disorder | ReachOut Australia

Get information on bipolar disorder, including access to mental health professionals and support groups, and learn strategies to help you cope in everyday life.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Treatment of bipolar disorder | Your Health in Mind

Bipolar disorder is treated with medication, psychological treatment and lifestyle changes.

Read more on RANZCP - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo