According to an article that accompanies the current edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, there is a positive shift of interest and awareness regarding bipolar disorder primarily due to emerging research and treatments.

The emerging treatments for bipolar disease and research about is were examined by Professor David Castle from Melbourne University's Department of Psychiatry, Professor Michael Berk from Melbourne University's Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences and Barbara Hocking, Executive Director of SANE Australia.

Bipolar disorder is attracting an increasing interest among the general public, clinical and research fields due to the emergence of a wide range of new pharmacological and psychological treatment options.

Prof Castle said, It is also associated with an increasing awareness that bipolar disorder is more common than previously thought.

There is a lifetime risk of bipolar of 2.9 per cent, as indicated in the Australian data from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, said Prof Castle.

The burden of the disease falls not only on the person affected by it, but also his or her family and society, especially when the illness is not treated early and effectively, he added.

The risks related with bipolar disease, he said included suicidal risks particularly in the depressed pole of the illness and also reputation damage and overspending in the elevated pole.

There is also an increasing recognition in the role of general practitioners managing patients with bipolar disorder, emphasized Prof Castle.

The welcome advances in research and treatments for bipolar must be complemented by comprehensive and sustained activity to improve community awareness of early signs and symptoms, encourage appropriate help-seeking behavior and foster understanding and supportive community and health worker attitudes, he said.

Otherwise, early identification and treatment of the disorder will stay as wishful thinking, concluded Prof Castle.