BIPOLAR

WHAT IS IT?

Bipolar disorder (also known as BD) is a severe lifelong mood disorder causing alternating episodes of “highs” [elevated mood or mania] and “lows” [depressed mood].

There are two types of Bipolar disorder. Bipolar I disorder affects men and women equally, while bipolar II disorder is more common in women. 

BIPOLAR I DISORDER

One or more episodes of mania with or without major depressive episodes 

BIPOLAR II DISORDER

One or more episodes of hypomania ( less elevated mood) as well as at least one major depressive episode 
Shorter episodes of depression than bipolar I 

Anxiety, substance use/dependence and personality disorders are common to both 

 

SYMPTOMS OF “HIGHS” (MANIA) 

  • An elevated or irritable mood which is often jovial and joking but is unstable. There can be extreme irritability and hostility

  • Overabundant energy and activity and rapid, pressured speech

  • A rush of ideas

  • Impulsive and inappropriate behavior

  • Grandiose delusions (e.g. delusions of inventive genius or aristocratic birth)

  • Overoptimistic about one’s abilities

  • Severe insomnia

 

SYMPTOMS OF “LOWS” 

  • Depressed mood

  • Lack of interest or pleasure

  • Change in appetite

  • Insomnia / hypersomnia

  • Excessive guilt feelings

  • Ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide

  • Reduced self-esteem and self confidence

  • Reduced concentration and attention

Mania is probably the most well recognised feature of bipolar disorder, but most people spend far more time in depressive episodes, than in elevated mood and mixed mood episodes. 

 

WHO IS AFFECTED?

The first symptoms of BD often present at 15 to 19 years of age.  

MEN 

  • Early onset associated with manic episodes

  • Higher probability of childhood antisocial behaviour

  • Higher rates of comorbid alcohol abuse/dependence

  • Cannabis abuse/dependence

  • Pathological gambling

WOMEN 

  • More depressive episodes

  • Higher rates of comorbid eating disorders

  • Weight change

  • Insomnia

 

HOW DOES IT IMPACT QUALITY OF LIFE?

Bipolar disorder:

  • Affects work functioning and is responsible for loss of productivity and increased illness and absenteeism – 72% of bipolar patients receive disability payments 

  • Is associated with increased substance use/dependence and the excessive use of alcohol, and smoking 

  • Increases the likelihood of having other psychiatric and medical conditions 

  • Increases the risk of suicide especially during major depressive episodes 

 

CAN BIPOLAR DISORDER BE TREATED?

 

Effective treatment is available for bipolar disorder. However, despite advances in medical and non-medical treatments, bipolar disorder often has many relapses and affects psychological functioning. 

Long-term treatment is aimed at preventing manic and depressive episodes. Long-term treatment is strongly recommended because, even after one episode, the chances of having recurrences in a lifetime is 95%. 6Treatment of BD is often lifelong and needs to be reviewed at least every six months. 

Please Note: This is an educational information leaflet only and should not be used for diagnosis. For more information on bipolar disorder and mental illness, consult your healthcare professional.

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