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Bipolar Disorder: An Information Guide for Families Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Bipolar Disorder: An Information Guide for Families


This guide is for people with bipolar disorder, their families and anyone who wants to understand the basics of this illness, its treatment and management. It should not replace treatment from a physician or mental health professional. It can be used, though, as a basis for asking about and discussing bipolar disorder. This handbook covers many aspects of bipolar disorder and common questions. With respect to drug treatments, new medications are often being developed, and some may not yet have been available when this guide was published.

  1. What is bipolar disorder?
  2. The clinical features of bipolar disorder
  3. The symptoms of bipolar disorder
  4. What causes bipolar disorder?
  5. What are the main treatments for bipolar disorder?
  6. Recovery and preventing recurrence
  7. Help for families
  8. Explaining bipolar disorder to children


Bipolar disorder is an often-complex disorder that requires many different types of knowledge and expertise to treat. Effective treatment is usually collaborative and multidisciplinary; so too was the writing of this guide. We have deliberately stated authorship as the “Bipolar Clinic Staff” to reflect our commitment to collaboration. For the record, the contributors to the guide include:

  • Sagar Parikh, MD, FRCPC;
  • Carol Parker, MSW, CSW; Robert Cooke, MD, FRCPC;
  • Stephanie Krüger, MD;
  • Roger McIntyre, MD, FRCPC;
  • Alice Kusznir, OT, M.Ed.; and
  • Christina Bartha, MSW, CSW.

Additional input was provided by:

  • Lynnette Ashton,
  • Mary Damianakis,
  • Deborah Mancini and
  • Lisa Zetes-Zanatta.


The authors would like to pay special tribute to our patients and their families who, through their openness, have taught us so much. We would also like to express our sincere appreciation to the patients and family members who gave so generously of their time in reviewing the manuscript and for their thoughtful comments and suggestions.

We also wish to thank the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario and Toronto for their assistance in the compilation of the list of Provincial Mood Disorder Associations.

Copyright © 2000 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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