Bipolar Disorder

Learning about bipolar disorder

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or your friend, relative or partner has, then this is the best section for you to start browsing. Here you will find information on bipolar disorder that will help you to understand more about the condition. Below you will find a short summary of what bipolar disorder actually is and to the left of this page is a menu detailing the more specific elements of bipolar disorder. Have a look at this first if you are new to this condition and need to familiarise yourself with different aspects of the illness.
If you are a carer: in addition to reading the material on bipolar disorder produced in this section of the web site, you might also like to read information written specifically for carers and friends. If you have a mental illness, browse through this section on bipolar disorder or have a look at other mental illnesses. You can also go directly to the consumer section which deals with treatment and recovery processes.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a condition that was previously referred to a manic depressive psychosis. It is a disease of the brain which can cause extreme fluctuations in mood. These extremes are often called mania and depression respectively. Everyone experiences some form of ‘high’ or ‘low’ (or happiness and sadness) throughout a typical day but people with bipolar disorder experience these mood changes at an exaggerated and often extreme level. These extreme mood swings are known as cycles or episodes.
Bipolar disorder affects the normal functioning of the brain and it results in swings in a person’s thoughts, perceptions, emotions and behaviour. It is estimated that 1.6 per cent of the population will develop bipolar disorder at some time in their lives. In 2003, it was estimated that there were 100,000 Australians living with bipolar disorder. Like other mental illnesses, bipolar disorder can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin, education, income or occupation.