Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) refers to a group of conditions characterised by cycles of extreme low and high mood.
The periods of low mood are referred to as ‘depressive episodes. The periods of high mood are referred to as ‘manic’ or ‘hypomanic’ episodes.
While everyone experiences fluctuations in mood, the episodes of high and low mood experienced in bipolar disorder significantly impact on the person’s relationships, work or education, and day-to-day life.
Bipolar disorder can look quite different in different people. For some people, episodes can last for three to six months and occur every few years while others may experience shorter but more frequent episodes over the course of one year.
In Australia, approximately 1.3% of the population has a form of bipolar disorder. Symptoms usually start in early adulthood and for most people the disorder is a lifelong diagnosis; however, with appropriate treatment and support, bipolar disorder symptoms can be well managed and individuals are able to maintain a good quality of life.