Bipolar affective disorder refers to a group of conditions that are characterised by mood swings. Ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. Periods of low mood are called depressive episodes. Whilst periods of slightly elevated or elevated mood are called hypomanic and manic episodes, respectively. Mood episodes can last days to months at a time, depending on the person.
Everyone experiences periods of high and low mood. However, people with bipolar disorder have extreme mood changes that can be highly distressing for themselves. In addition for around them. These changes in mood can lead to a range of symptoms that interfere significantly with a person’s functioning at work. Secondly, at home and in their personal lives. Between episodes, however, people may have periods of normal mood and functioning.
Previously known as ‘manic depression. Bipolar disorder is considered to be a life long or chronic condition, which affects just over 1% of Australians. Symptoms of bipolar disorder usually start in early adulthood and vary considerably between individuals. Manic symptoms may include things like increased energy, decreased need for sleep and risky or impulsive behaviour; whilst depressive episodes may include things like low energy, lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities and suicidal thoughts.
There are two types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I and II. People with bipolar I disorder experience manic episodes, whereas people with bipolar II disorder experience only hypomanic episodes. Depressive episodes can occur in both types of bipolar disorders, but they are not necessary for a diagnosis. We don’t know exactly what causes bipolar. However, a combination of genetic, environmental and neurological factors are thought to play a role.
There is no test for bipolar, rather your psychiatrist or psychologist will ask a series of questions as part of the diagnostic and assessment process.