Bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Bipolar disorder is often hard to diagnose and is commonly confused with depression (being the prevailing mood state). Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by episodes of mania and depression and extreme highs and lows in mood. A good way to identify this condition is when an individual is always depressed and low to the point of not getting out of bed then suddenly springs into action, has a flight of ideas and dramatically increases their activity (e.g., stays up all night to clean the house) and this lasts for at least a week.

What are the signs?

A manic episode involves an elevated or irritable mood and increases in activity levels at work and social engagements. Other signs include:

  • excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that will have an undesirable consequence
  • reckless spending
  • rapid speech
  • subjective impression that thoughts are racing
  • less than normal amount of sleep
  • inflated self-esteem or belief that one has superhuman powers

The average age of onset for the disorder is for people in their late 20's and it occurs equally in men and women. In women the episodes of depression are more common and episodes of mania less common than among men. The prevalence of bipolar disorder is life long.

What are the causes?

The causes of Bipolar Disorder are largely unknown. There is a moderate heritability for the disorder but it is essentially a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.

How is bipolar disorder treated?

Prescribed medication is very helpful for treating bipolar disorder but it must be carefully monitored as side effects are common. Counselling is useful for appropriate management of mood states, education around the disorder and support in living with the disorder.

Bipolar information page - beyondblue

beyondblue is an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to increase awareness and understanding of anxiety and depression in Australia and to reduce the associated stigma. Their information on bipolar disorder details signs, symptoms, triggers and diagnosis.

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/types-of-depression

Bipolar disorder explained by the Black Dog Institute

The Black Dog Institute is an NSW based educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility. Their fact sheet on bipolar disorder includes information on the disorder, key points, symptoms, causes and treatments options.

http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/bipolardisorder/bipolardisorderexplained/index.cfm

Bipolar fact sheet by Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP) is a world-leading youth mental health program based in Melbourne, Australia. Within their Depression fact sheet you will find information on Bipolar disorder and options for getting help.

http://oyh.org.au/sites/oyh.org.au/files/factsheets/oyh_fs_dep.pdf

Bipolar Disorder fact sheet in various languages - Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHMA)

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. A fact sheet about Bipolar Disorder is available in twenty-three different languages.

http://www.mhima.org.au/resources-and-information/Translated-information/translated-mental-health-information-resources

Helping someone who isn't ready to recognise they need assistance can be very difficult. People with depression often don't see the point of doing anything and may feel that no one can really help them. People experiencing mania may have difficulties seeing things in a rational light. Often they cannot recognise their own behaviour is of concern and may not be inclined to understand other people's feelings or points of view.

You can help someone by:

  • spending time talking about their experiences
  • indicating that you've noticed a change in their behaviour
  • letting them know you're there to listen without being judgmental
  • suggesting they see a doctor or health professional
  • recommending and/or assisting them to make an appointment with a doctor or health professional
  • going with the person to the doctor or health professional
  • asking how their appointment went
  • offering to help them find information about bipolar disorder
  • talking openly about their feelings
  • encouraging them to get enough sleep, exercise and eat well 
  • taking them out and keeping in touch - as well as encouraging close friends and family members to do the same 
  • helping them create an activities plan for when they feel depressed
  • setting reasonable boundaries or rules and sticking to them
  • contacting a doctor or crisis team if they become a threat to themselves or others
  • learning about their way of coping and asking about the sort of support that they find most useful

This information page by beyondblue details their approach to helping someone with types of depression or anxiety:

References: beyondblue

beyondblue

beyondblue is an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to increase awareness and understanding of anxiety and depression in Australia and to reduce the associated stigma.

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Black Dog Institute

An educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility in NSW offering specialist expertise in mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder.

http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHMA)

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

http://www.mhima.org.au/

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP)

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP) is a world-leading youth mental health program based in Melbourne, Australia. OYHCP sees young people aged 15 to 25, with a focus on early intervention and youth specific approaches.

http://oyh.org.au/

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