Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a psychiatric illness which affects up to 1 in 50 Australians.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings – a person might experience feelings of euphoria or irritability for a period of time (mania), followed by periods of deep sadness and profound depression.

The cycle of mania and depression experienced by a person with bipolar disorder can vary in intensity, and in time – each state of mania or depression might last a day, a week or for many months, and there might be periods of relative calm and normality in between. Some people with bipolar disorder experience more highs than lows, whilst others find that they are generally more depressed than manic.

The degree to which a person experiences mania goes to making a diagnosis of either Bipolar Type 1, for more severe mania and Bipolar Type 2, for persons with a lesser degree of mania (called hypomania). You can read articles on each of these disorders in the subsections to this article. (This article is electronically protected - Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)


The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, although it would seem that genetics does play a large role. One theory proposed by psychiatrists and psychologists is that the illness might be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is thought that, in patients with bipolar disorder, the chemicals in the brain which help regulate mood (known as norepinephrine and serotonin) are easily skewed. Most people affected by bipolar disorder are in their 20s when they are first diagnosed.

Aspects of Bipolar Disorder represent a type of psychosis, which means that a person with bipolar has an altered perception of reality – they are generally unable to understand that their behaviour is inappropriate or irrational; this is particularly the case when the person is feeling manic.


When diagnosing manic behaviour, psychiatrists and psychologists look out for the following symptoms:

• Feeling over-excited and extremely energetic
• Thinking and speaking quickly
• Imagining that they are more important or influential than they are in real life (grandiosity)
• Going without sleep
• Acting in a reckless or uncharacteristically risky way
• Engaging in extreme sexual behaviour
• Aggressive behaviour
• Irritability
• Making unrealistic plans

When diagnosing depression, psychiatrists and psychologists look out for:

- Feelings of overwhelming sadness
- Feelings of helpless and hopelessness
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Abandoning hobbies and withdrawing from friends
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviour
However, it is the incidence of episodes of both mania and depression which indicates that a person might be bipolar. Diagnosis would generally be by a psychiatrist.


Treatment for bipolar disorder depends on the severity of the manic and depressed feelings, however people often require medication to help stabilise their moods. Medication for psychiatric illness is best prescribed by a psychiatrist (a psychiatrist is a medical doctor specialised in mental illness).

People with bipolar disorder can also benefit from counselling or therapy with a professional counsellor or psychologist to help them understand and better handle their illness. Psychologists or counsellors will work with clients to better recognise the onset of a particular phase and will often look for triggers as well developing management plans for the onset of manic or depressive symptoms.

Counsellors and psychologists will often work in partnership with a treating psychiatrist to manage the care of a person with bipolar disorder. This is especially important if the person is taking medication to help control their manic or depressive episodes.


People with bipolar disorder can experience acute or heightened episodes of mania or depression, which can lead to dangerous behaviour (particularly if the person is acting delusional or suicidal). If you are concerned that someone you know might be experiencing an acute episode of either mania or depression, they may require immediate care and treatment. Contact a psychiatric hospital or the emergency department of your local hospital for advice about where to go.

To enquire about professional counselling by qualified Counsellors & Psychologists for the ongoing psychological management of Bipolar Disorder in Sydney call Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney. We welcome your enquiry.


All health information provided on is general in nature and is provided for information purposes only. The information contained on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat psychological conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to obtaining counselling or psychological advice from a qualified counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist or medical practitioner. Please consult a counselling professional or a health care provider about any health concerns you might have about yourself or others. Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney Pty. Ltd does not accept liability for any loss or damage associated with the use of this site.

This site may contain links to third party sites including sites on counselling, psychologist services, mental health and other unrelated material. The existence of these links is not to be construed as an endorsement by Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney Pty. Ltd as to the accuracy or quality of the information or services provided by these third party sites and we do not accept liability for any loss or damaged associated with the use of these third party sites.

This page is electronically copyright protected - do not copy - Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD

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