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Bipolar disorder

Research indicates that the symptoms of bipolar disorder are often mistaken for, and result in a diagnosis of, unipolar depression.14

This is because patients with bipolar disorder usually experience or present more commonly with depressive symptoms, and might not recognise and/or report hypomanic or manic episodes.15

Manic episodes may involve changes in mood, behaviour, energy, sleep, and cognition, and might be characterised by a positive mood, irritability, inappropriate behaviour and heightened creativity.16

Did you know …

People with bipolar disorder have a much higher risk of suicide (about eight times) than the general population.15

Treating misdiagnosed bipolar disorder with antidepressant medication can worsen manic and hypomanic symptoms, so keep this in mind if a patient presents with depressive symptoms.17

Further reading and resources

Black Dog – Bipolar disorder symptoms fact sheet


  1. Stensland MD, Zhu B, Ascher-Svanum H, Ball DE. Costs associated with attempted suicide among individuals with bipolar disorder. J Ment Health Policy Econ 2010;13(2):87–92.
  2. Cerimele JM, Chwastiak LA, Chan YF, Harrison DA, Unutzer J. The presentation, recognition and management of bipolar depression in primary care. J Gen Intern Med 2013;28(12):1648–56.
  3. Black Dog Institute. Bipolar disorder: Symptoms. Randwick, NSW: Black Dog Institute, 2012. [Accessed 4 February 2016].
  4. Benazzi F. Bipolar disorder – Focus on bipolar II disorder and mixed depression. Lancet 2007;369(9565):935–45.


Suicide prevention and first aid a resource for GPs