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

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder

If your doctor suspects that you have bipolar disorder, they will usually refer you to a psychiatrist (a medically qualified mental health specialist).

If there is a risk that you could harm yourself as a result of your illness, your doctor will arrange for you to have an appointment immediately.

Specialist assessment

The psychiatrist will ask you a number of questions to determine whether you have bipolar disorder and, if so, what treatments will be most suitable for you.

During the assessment, you will be asked about your symptoms and when you first experienced them. The psychiatrist will also ask you about how you usually feel leading up to and during an episode of mania or depression, and whether you have had thoughts about harming yourself.

The psychiatrist will also want to find out about your medical background and family history, to determine whether any of your relatives have had bipolar disorder. If someone else in your family has the condition, the psychiatrist may want to talk to them. However, they will ask for your agreement before doing so.

Other tests

Depending on your symptoms, you may also need tests to see whether you have a physical problem, such as an underactive or overactive thyroid.

If you have bipolar disorder, you will need to visit your doctor regularly for a physical health check.

Planning for an emergency

If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it is important to discuss your condition with the psychiatrist so you are fully involved in the decisions about your treatment and care.

It is important to have structures in place in times of emergency. These may include a stay well plan, an advanced directive, or appointing a guardian or a financial manager. These will help you identify the risks and what you can do about them, such as what hospital you agree to go to in an emergency, what medication you will take, and how to protect your assets during a manic phase.

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

Last reviewed: September 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 112 results

Bipolar disorder

Trusted information about bipolar disorder, including types, symptoms, diagnosis, causes and treatments of bipolar disorder from leading Australian health organisations.

Read more on mindhealthconnect website

Bipolar disorder

What causes Bipolar disorder? The causes of Bipolar disorder are not fully understood. As with any other illnesses, they are likely to be a combinatio...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Bipolar disorder in young people

Bipolar disorder is a neglected health problem in children and adolescents. Formerly known as Manic Depression, bipolar disorder has only recently been recognised in children and young people.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Bipolar disorder in the postnatal period - COPE

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition. Those with a history may have a relapse of bipolar disorder in the postnatal period.

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

Treatments for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a biological condition with a strong genetic component which requires long-term management.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Causes of bipolar disorder

While the exact causes of bipolar disorder are not yet fully understood, we do know that it is primarily a biological illness. However, its onset is often linked to stressful life events.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Bipolar disorder treatments during pregnancy and the postnatal period

Bipolar disorder is an illness which can require long-term treatment and skilled medical management. It is a biological condition with a strong genetic component, so effective management of bipolar disorder primarily involves the use of medications.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Bipolar disorder symptoms

Bipolar disorder is the name used to describe a set of ‘mood swing’ conditions, the most severe form of which used to be called ‘manic depression’. The term describes the exaggerated swings of mood, cognition and energy from one extreme to the other that are characteristic of the illness.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Staying on course with bipolar disorder treatments

The management of bipolar disorder is not always a straightforward task. Often people do not take their medication as prescribed – they may either take a lower dose than prescribed or cease one or all medications entirely.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Understanding bipolar disorder for families

Read more on headspace website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information 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

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
Feedback