Interest and awareness about bipolar disorder are slowly shifting, largely due to emerging treatments and research, according to an
article in a supplement to the current edition of the Medical Journal of
Prof David Castle, from the Department of Psychiatry at the
University of Melbourne, Prof Michael Berk, from the Department of Clinical and
Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and Barbara Hocking,
Executive Director of SANE Australia, examined emerging treatments for and
research on bipolar disorder.
Prof Castle said bipolar disorder is attracting an upsurge
of interest among the general public and in clinical and research arenas, which
is being driven largely by the emergence of a range of new pharmacological and
"It is also associated with an increasing awareness that
bipolar disorder is more common than previously thought," Prof Castle said.
"Australian data from the National Survey of Mental Health
and Wellbeing indicate that there is a lifetime risk of bipolar disorder of 2.9
"Bipolar disorder often carries a significant burden of
disability, which affects the patient, his or her family and society at large,
particularly when the illness is not treated early and effectively.
"Risks associated with bipolar disorder include the risk of
suicide, specifically in the depressed pole of the illness ... and overspending
and damage to reputation in the elevated pole.
Prof Castle also highlighted that the role of general
practitioners in managing patients with the disorder is gaining increasing
"The welcome advances in research and treatments for bipolar
disorder must be complemented by comprehensive and sustained activity to
improve community awareness of early signs and symptoms, encourage appropriate
help-seeking behaviour, and foster understanding and supportive community and
health worker attitudes.
"Otherwise, early identification and treatment of bipolar
disorder ... will remain wishful thinking," Prof Castle said.
The Medical Journal of Australia
is a publication
of the Australian Medical Association.