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Bipolar Disorder - An Introduction


People with bipolar disorder experience a cycle of mood swings between depression and mania (elation). Both the manic and depressive phases vary widely in intensity and duration. People with bipolar disorder often spend more time in the depressive phase of illness than the manic stage.

Symptoms of bipolar disorders can be:

Emotional changes:

  • Experiencing an elevated, expansive or irritable mood for at least one week
  • Rapid changes in mood between depression and mania, or a mixture of both
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability

Cognitive changes:

  • Feeling excessively good about yourself
  • Exaggerated ideas about how important you are compared to others
  • Difficulty concentrating, paying attention and remembering things
  • Easily distracted or impulsive
  • Having many ideas or thoughts at the one time

Behavioural changes:       

  • More talkative or fast paced speech
  • Problems with work, social or family life
  • Increased goal-directed activity
  • Involvement in pleasurable or risky activities that have the potential for serious negative consequences (eg, excessive spending, promiscuity)
  • Increase in impulsivity


At least 1 in every 100 people will experience bipolar disorder at some time during their lives.

Bipolar disorder is the 9th leading contributor to the burden of disease and injury in Australian females aged 15-24 years, and the tenth leading contributor for males of the same age.

Overall, approximately 50% of people who develop bipolar disorder will do so by the time they are in their early to mid 20’s.

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