Bipolar disorder is a diagnosis which may be given to someone who experiences extreme feelings and shifts in mood from high (mania) to low (depression). 

In making a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, doctors will ask about changes that are unusual for you and look for possible symptoms.

Symptoms of mania: 

  • feeling much happier and more confident than usual 
  • having more energy than is normal for you
  • having racing thoughts, talking quickly
  • feeling more frustrated or irritable than normal
  • having difficulty focusing, moving from one thought to another
  • having difficulty sleeping and staying awake for long periods
  • taking more risks than usual, for example, spending more money, using drugs and alcohol that you wouldn’t normally

Some people may also experience psychotic symptoms during episodes of mania. Most commonly these are delusions (believing things that most other people find unusual).

Mania can begin as a feeling of elation but over time may become overwhelming and frightening.

Symptoms of depression:

  • feeling extreme sadness
  • feeling tired or having less energy
  • losing motivation and interest
  • having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • low self-esteem
  • having difficulty with sleep (too much or too little)
  • change in appetite (more or less hungry than usual)
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • thoughts of self-harm 

People may experience psychotic symptoms in extreme cases of depression and mania. It may involve delusions, for example, believing that someone on the television is saying you are worthless.

These types of experiences can have a significant impact on daily life, including relationships, work, physical health and sense of self.

Treatment and support will be different for each person. Mental health professionals should help you find treatments and supports that work best for you. This may be a combination of medication, rehabilitation and professional, family, community and peer support.

A diagnosis will mean different things to different people. It is only one way of understanding your experiences and what might support your recovery. It can help to do your own research and talk to a range of professionals, trusted family and friends, or to people who have had similar experiences.

Regardless of diagnosis, people do recover and live well.

If you need to talk, call our Helpline.

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For more information, please contact Wellways on 1300 111 400.