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Waitematā DHB Isa Lei - Pacific Island Community Mental Health Services

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Bipolar Affective Disorder or Manic Depression

Having bipolar is more than a temporary feeling of being depressed when you are stressed out, or of feeling great when something goes really well. The difference with bipolar is that these feelings are extreme and continual, and you can either feel really happy, energetic and “high” or really miserable and depressed, or “low”. 
People with bipolar disorder usually experience more lows than highs. Some of the extreme phases of bipolar disorder make everyday life difficult and can include a loss of touch with reality (psychosis).  Bipolar (affective) disorder is also known as manic depression.
These changes of mood can be very extreme and occur for no apparent reason. Different people will experience this disorder in different ways; some may have few episodes, others many, and symptoms may vary from mild to severe.

There are two types of bipolar disorder. They are called type 1 and type 2.

  • Bipolar type 1 disorder means you get bouts of mānia and bouts of depression.
  • Bipolar type 2 disorder also means you get bouts of mānia and bouts of depression, but the mānia is milder. It is sometimes called hypomania. It’s slightly more common than type 1.

The symptoms of bipolar affective disorder fall into three categories: 

  • symptoms of mānia  - feel fantastic and full of energy but others around you can see its uncharacteristic of you to be this way.  Full of energy might mean less sleep, more of an appetite and bigger mood swings between happy and sad.
  • symptoms of depression - persistent low mood or sadness, difficulty of waking up or unable to get back to sleep, always tired,  sometimes you eat much more or much less than usual, loss of interest in usual activities, hard to concentrate, loss of confidence and excessively feeling guilty for minor mistakes/ wrongs, thoughts of hopelessness, death and suicide.
  • mixed symptoms of mānia and depression  - a mixture of both of the above.


  • Medication (antidepressants if depressed and mood stabilisers if depressed and manic).
  • A combination of counselling and psychotherapy (‘talking therapy’) may hasten recovery.
  • Education about bipolar can help people who have it communicate effectively and solve problems alleviating stress.
  • Hospitalisation may be required for those who are very unwell and are posing a risk to themselves or to others.
  • Looking after physical wellbeing/ health.

This page was last updated at 10:39AM on July 6, 2021.