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Bipolar disorder: Background and diagnosis

CPD Hours



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Mental health


Bipolar disorders are recurrent, chronic mood disorders characterised by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression that affect about 1% of Australians.

There are several types (bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorders) and presentations, such as mixed episodes and rapid cycling.

The cause is unclear but certainly multifactorial. Early diagnosis is difficult, and misdiagnosis is common, which can result in suboptimal management and adverse outcomes for the patient.

This course is designed for nurses. The therapeutic relationship that nurses develop with their patients means they are ideally placed to detect or suspect a bipolar disorder.

There are 3 modules in this course.  

This module, Module 1, covers the various types, presentations, and components of bipolar disease, and the assessment required for diagnosis in adults.

Module 2 covers the management of bipolar disorders in adults.

Module 3 discusses the characteristics of the pharmacological treatment used in bipolar disorders in adults.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • By the end of this module, participants will be able to
  • Understand the difference between bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorders.
  • Recognise patterns of symptoms that indicate a bipolar disorder.
  • Explain the risks of unmanaged or poorly managed bipolar disorders.
  • Discuss how bipolar disorders are diagnosed.

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