Bipolar disorder is a common, lifelong condition that can present during childhood, adolescence, adulthood or later in life. It may occur alone but, more frequently, is complicated by comorbid psychiatric and medical disorders. As such, bipolar disorder presents in many different special populations, each of which warrants specific considerations of diagnosis, treatment and management. This review summarizes common issues concerning recognition of bipolar disorder, particularly in younger patients, discusses the prevalence and treatment of anxious disorder and addictive comorbidity, and considers bipolar disorder in the institutionalized and forensic populations. Treatment options and the supporting evidence are discussed.