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MHFA: Learn the Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder

bipolar disorder

Table of Contents

Bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression, is a condition whether the peaks and valleys of emotions are more severe. It causes serious shifts in a person’s mood, thinking, and behaviour.

More than just a fleeting change in mood, the cycles of this disorder can last for days, weeks, and even months. In some cases, the changes in mood can interfere with one’s daily function, damage social relationships, and disrupt the ability to live a normal life.

Recognising the problem and its symptoms is the first step to feeling better and getting your life back on track.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that involves emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

A person with hypomania or mania may feel euphoric and full of energy. When the mood shifts to depression, they may feel sad, hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in once enjoyed activities. These abrupt mood changes can affect one’s sleep, energy, judgments, and behaviour. It also affects their energy levels and their ability to think clearly.

Bipolar disorder symptoms can be subtle and confusing, making many overlook or misdiagnose their condition. This often results in unnecessary suffering and not getting the right treatment.

Knowing the symptoms is important since bipolar disorder tends to worsen without treatment.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

The different symptoms can fall under two categories: mania (hypomania) and depression.

Mania (Hypomania)
  • Unusually upbeat, outgoing, or irritable mood
  • Racing thoughts
  • Speed talking
  • Boundless energy
  • Impulsive and self-destructive behaviour
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Inflated sense of self-worth

  • Low mood
  • Less energy and always feeling tired
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Losing interest in most activities
  • Lack of focus or difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to make sound decisions
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviour

According to the Bureau of Statistics, approximately 568,000 people, or 2.9% of Australians, will experience bipolar symptoms at ages 16 and over. Unfortunately, many of these numbers show a delay in recognising signs, including the start of treatment.

The best option to diagnose the condition is to see a mental health professional who can conduct appropriate tests and decide whether or not a person has bipolar disorder.

Mental Health First Aid for Bipolar Disorder

Like CPR in physical health, mental health first aid (MHFA) is performed when a person is in an emotional or mental crisis.

Take note that as a mental health first aider, you cannot provide a diagnosis or administer advanced treatment. However, you can use the MHFA plan ALGEE to help someone who seems to be struggling with this disorder.

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Recognising the symptoms and taking action are the keys to someone’s recovery from bipolar disorder. Learn more about the MHFA plan and how to implement its steps in a formal mental health first aid course.


As with any physical or mental disorder, early treatment of bipolar disorder can reduce overall pain and complication associated with this condition. Recognising the symptoms early means being able to seek help faster. Though the symptoms can arise at any point in life, this order is typically diagnosed between the teenage years and early 20s.

The sooner someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the sooner they will receive treatment that is appropriate for their condition.

Learn mental health first aid to know more about bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.

With the right medication, therapy, and mental health first aid skills, there is a higher chance of having someone get back to a more normal life. 

Visit our course page to know more.

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