Our findings

The mood changes associated with bipolar disorder are not the same as normal ‘ups-and-downs’. People experiencing mania often report feeling ‘on top of the world’; or having ‘racing thoughts’, and not being able to slow down.

In some cases, psychotic symptoms may be involved. Hypomania is a less severe form, where the ‘highs’ may not alter one’s functioning much, and no psychosis is experienced. These mania and depressive periods tend to cause personal distress or impair work, social, or daily functioning.

People with BD can have periods of stable mood, where they do not have any symptoms.

Key findings

2% of the population classified as having BD

BD is most common before the age of 25

BD is commonly misdiagnosed as depression

Prevalence of Bipolar Disorder

Approximately 2% of people worldwide meet criteria for BD. Most will experience symptoms before the age of 25. As BD typically involves periods of mania and depression, it is not uncommon to receive an initial diagnosis of depression, only to be later diagnosed with BD. 

At times, individuals may underreport mania/ hypomania symptoms as these can feel pleasant. This can make getting appropriate treatment challenging.

Possible causes

The exact causes of BD are unknown, but there is some indication that a combination of genetics, psychological, and environmental factors are involved. As such, traumatic or stressful life events may increase the likelihood of BD. Persons with BD sometimes report being highly ambitious or having impulsive personality traits.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

One person with BD may present quite differently from someone else. Possible symptoms include:

  • mania/hypomania 
  • elevated mood or increased energy levels 
  • feeling persistently irritable 
  • grandiose ideas or inflated self-esteem 
  • reduced need for sleep 
  • greater amount and/or volume of speech 
  • racing thoughts 
  • significant distractibility 
  • physical agitation or restlessness 
  • reckless behaviours (e.g. spending sprees, irresponsible driving, or sexual indiscretions)

Treatment options

Effective treatments for BD often involve a combination of mood stabilisers (e.g. lithium) and psychological interventions, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), or interpersonal and social rhythms therapy (IPSRT). Social support and lifestyle changes may be helpful as well.

Bipolar assessment questionnaire

The following questionnaire is designed to assess your mood, personality and satisfaction with life and will take around 30 minutes to complete. Upon completion, you will see your results and will have the opportunity to email the results to your clinician.

Bipolar Disorder (BD) fact sheet
Centre for Mental Health

Bipolar Disorder (BD) fact sheet

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Contact the Centre for Mental Health

There are many ways to engage with us. Whether you’re a PhD student, media, or an organisation looking to form a partnership, contact the Centre on +61 3 9214 3865 or via cmh@swinburne.edu.au.

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