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The following information on Bipolar will give you some insight to what Bipolar Disorder is and how it presents. 

Michelle Barratt Psychology aims to provide treatment for the management of Bipolar Disorder at the highest level; implementing support and treatment that not only endeavours to support a person feel heard and understood, but a treatment plan that empowers their clients to manage their disorder effectively.  Our therapeutic values aim to support all children, all adolescents, and all adults, couples and family's work through their presenting issues to succeed in their ultimate wellbeing. If you are unsure about what you are dealing with, please don't hesitate to contact us to support you through the next step of either working out what to do or how to proceed with an appointment.


What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition that has characteristically strong changes in mood-type (depressive or elevated) and energy. One in 50 (1.8%) adult Australians experience bipolar disorder each year, and requires long-term management, which will often include medication monitored by a psychiatrist and psychological therapy by a psychologist.


Ultimately, Bipolar affects how people function and can have an impact on an individual’s everyday life. Most individuals diagnosed, of course depending on the type and severity of their diagnosis, can manage their bipolar with great success. This comes from a very clear understanding of how they are triggered, what medication they need to take, and of course a stress management plan. However, if individual’s go untreated or are not compliant with their specific treatment plan, then this can, more often than not, make it very difficult for people to consistently cope at work, home, school or socially. People experiencing bipolar disorder can have undulating changes in their mood-type; often vacillating between feeling very depressed or manic (see below):

* depressive episodes: low mood, feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness and lack of interest and pleasure in things

* manic or hypomanic episodes: extremely high mood and activity or agitation, racing thoughts, little need for sleep and rapid speech.


These periods of mood-type can last a day, a couple of days, a week or more.


Impact of Bipolar Disorder:

Cognitively, such changes in mood affect an individuals thoughts and behaviour, and more often than not, not only within them, but can have negative long-lasting effects on their partners and family.


Of course, each individual can experience bipolar disorder in different ways; meaning each individual will have different characteristics and patterns of behaviour. Often their behaviour and thoughts can be beyond their own control, and only after they have ‘come down’ or ‘out of an episode’ can individuals really understand the full consequences of their previous behaviour.


Early Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder for Hypomania and Mania:

When someone is hypomanic, they can often report feeling on top of the world, and experience high energy levels, and exhibit impulsive behaviour. Some of these symptoms can also include:

  • not sleeping (the most commonly experienced sign)

  • agitation, irritability, emotional intensity

  • energised with ideas, plans, motivation for schemes

  • intense expression laden behaviour with implied extra meaning

  • inability to concentrate

  • rapid thoughts and speech

  • spending money more than usual

  • increased sexual drive, flirtatiousness

  • increasing incidence of paranoid thoughts

  • neglecting to eat, losing track of time

  • reading extra symbolism into words, events, patterns (seeing ‘codes’)

  • increased use of telephone or writing – incessant contact with with friends and family

  • insistent and persuasive

  • increased intake – or binges – of alcohol and/or drugs

  • arguments with friends or family

  • increased ‘driven’ activity without stopping to eat, drink or sleep

  • increased interest in religious/spiritual ideas or themes

  • taking on more work or working to extremes in hours or projects.

Early Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder or Bipolar Depression:

  • change in sleep patterns – insomnia, or excessive sleeping

  • fatigue

  • staying up late to watch TV or work on projects

  • increased irritability

  • loss of concentration

  • lack of motivation

  • withdrawal – avoiding social contact, not answering phone, cancelling social activities

  • change in eating habits – loss of appetite, or overeating

  • reduced libido

  • increased anxiety and feelings of worthlessness

  • loss of interest in leisure activities and hobbies

  • listening to sad/nostalgic music

  • taking sick days

  • procrastinating and putting off responsibilities

  • bursting into tears for no apparent reason

  • thoughts of suicide.


If you recognise some of these changes in behaviour, it’s important to immediately find help and support with a mental health professional. Go to your GP and let them know what you have been experiencing; if possible take someone with you who has witnessed any part of your hypomanic/manic episodes.

There are very effective treatments available for Bipolar Disorder, and psychologists who can help support not only the individual diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder but also their partners and family members. Please also view topic pages on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), on the Interventions Page on this website.

Author: Michelle Barratt - Clinical Psychologist, and Clinical Director of Michelle Barratt Psychology, a Brisbane and Redland Bay Psychology Practice - Promoting the Therapeutic Care and Therapy for Adults.


If you would like to do a ‘bipolar disorder self-test’ then please click on the link below and take your results to your GP as well as to your psychologist.

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Michelle Barratt is a Fellow of the Clinical College at the Australian Psychological Society.