Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme mood changes. Bipolar disorder symptoms in females widely differ from those of their male counterparts. Read this article to learn everything about BD in females and how bipolar disorder affects the daily life of women?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health illness marked by abrupt and severe mood swings. Bipolar disorder affects both men and women equally. However, there are some disparities in how men and women perceive the disease. A woman, for example, is more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression than mania. Biology and gender roles can influence how women experience and are treated for bipolar disorder.

Many women are misdiagnosed because of bipolar disorder’s hallmark symptoms that can be confused with PMS or depression. Female hormones and reproductive variables may also impact the disease and its management. No one is exempt from mental illness since it may happen to anyone. Even though it does not discriminate, it does not have an equal impact on everyone.

By examining bipolar disorder symptoms in females, we’ll find out why there are distinctions between the two in this section by taking a look at how bipolar disorder symptoms differ in women from men. Apart from this, we will be taking a peek at how bipolar disorder affects the daily life of women, so follow this article to expand your view on BD in females.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a type of mental illness characterized by episodes of erratic mood fluctuations, as well as variations in energy and activity levels. The disorder may manifest itself regularly or erratically. In either case, it could be hard to go about your everyday business or act normally. Other names for bipolar disorder include manic-depressive condition and manic-depressive illness.

Bipolar I disorder causes severe mood fluctuations that sometimes appear to occur unexpectedly. These drastic changes are so crippling that they impair a person’s capacity for thought and reasoning.

Energy levels may increase as a result of the illness’s ups and downs, followed by severe depressive episodes. This erratic pattern of behavior changes increases the likelihood that someone would make careless decisions and act recklessly, as well as increases the likelihood that they may entertain suicidal ideas.

Bipolar onset age – females

Regardless of sex, the earliest signs of bipolar disorder (depression and mania) commonly appear in your twenties. But according to data, males often have their first depressive episode around five years earlier than women. That equates to men being roughly 22 years old and women being about 27 years old. Similar statistics apply to mania, where the average age of onset for women is 25.9 years old and just under 22 for men.

Another age-related difference in bipolar disorder is that late-onset bipolar disorder, or LOBD, is more common in women than in males. While many researchers define LOBD as bipolar, which is first diagnosed at age 50, or later, some researchers also use the term to refer to those diagnosed at age 40 and up. Many occurrences of women’s late-onset bipolar disorder are believed to be related to menopause. One in five bipolar women reports having trouble getting through menopause.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in females

Medical professionals have historically neglected female bipolar illness symptoms. Due to false and stereotypical depictions of women that depict them as frequently having shifting moods, medical professionals may incorrectly treat female patients with bipolar II. Mental health providers must be conscious of any possible biases in this area.

According to the Office on Women’s Health of the US Department of Health, females with bipolar disorder are more likely than males to experience other physical and mental health issues, such as issues with alcohol use, depression brought on by bipolar disorder, thyroid disease, obesity brought on by medications used to treat bipolar disorder, and migraine headaches.

It is critical to grasp the fundamental characteristics of bipolar disorder. This can help you in your understanding of how bipolar disorder affects women. There are various forms of bipolar disorder and related conditions. Mania or hypomania, as well as depression, may be present. Symptoms can cause abrupt changes in mood and behavior, causing severe distress and trouble in daily life. The following are the primary symptoms.

  • mania
  • hypomania
  • depression
  • mixed mania

Mania

A heightened mood is referred to as mania. You might experience manic periods where you feel incredibly energetic, active, and creative. There’s a chance you’ll get angry as well. You might practice high-risk behaviors like increased sexual activity or drug misuse.

You might also act rashly in other ways, such as making poor financial decisions or unwise purchases. An episode of manic behavior may last a week or more. If you experience either visual or aural hallucinations or delusions, then know those are referred to as “psychotic features.” Bipolar disorder’s manic phase may include the following:

  • feeling thrilled, ecstatic, or extremely glad
  • conversing fast
  • feeling highly energized
  • an attitude of superiority
  • bursting with brilliant fresh ideas and having vital plans
  • not being able to concentrate
  • becoming irritable or angry easily
  • being delusional, experiencing hallucinations, and thinking strangely or illogically
  • not in the mood to sleep
  • avoiding food
  • doing actions that frequently result in catastrophe, such as spending a lot of money on expensive and occasionally unaffordable stuff
  • making choices or speaking things that others perceive as hazardous or damaging and or those that may be out of character

Hypomania

Hypomania is a milder variety of mania. You might have elevated moods akin to mania during hypomanic episodes. However, these heightened moods are less severe than manic moods and have less of an effect on your ability to carry out daily tasks. Men are less prone than women to experience hypomania.

Depression

Depression is characterized by an excessively low mood. You may experience great melancholy as well as a substantial loss of energy during depressive episodes. These episodes typically last at least two weeks. As a result, depressive episodes might cause significant disability. Women are more prone than men to exhibiting symptoms of depression. During a depressive episode, you may experience the following symptoms.

  • a constant sense of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability
  • short of energy
  • having trouble focusing and remembering things
  • loss of enthusiasm for routine activities
  • the absence of any sense of purpose or worth
  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
  • having a negative outlook on everything
  • self-doubt
  • being delusional, experiencing hallucinations, and thinking strangely or illogically
  • absence of appetite
  • having sleeping problems
  • waking up early in the morning
  • having suicidal thoughts

Mixed mania

People with bipolar disorder may sometimes experience mixed mania in addition to distinct manic and depressed episodes. Another name for this is a mixed episode. A mixed episode might cause you to have daily manic and depression symptoms for a week or more. Mixed episodes are more common in women than in men.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in teenage females

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition characterized by significant mood fluctuations that range from happy and lively to depressed and lethargic. When bipolar disorder affects women, it might cause several gender-specific issues.

During a manic episode, a young lady with bipolar disorder may appear happy and active on one end of the pendulum. During the depressive phase, they can return to sentiments of despair, rage, and negative self-perception. Bipolar disorder has a more significant impact on females who use drugs or alcohol than on girls who do not use drugs or alcohol.

When bipolar disorder affects girls, it might result in some unusual complications. For example, a young woman with bipolar disorder may become sexually promiscuous or engage in dangerous activities during a manic period. Furthermore, bipolar disorder’s depressive phase can be highly detrimental to a young woman’s self-esteem, leading to negative ideas and behaviors. Bipolar disorder symptoms in teenage females include

  • Feeling ecstatic over extended lengths of time
  • Jabbering and rushing through thoughts
  • Sleeping less frequently
  • Acting rashly and getting engaged in risky behavior
  • Being angry or irritated
  • Suffering from severe depression

As symptoms can be highly disruptive to your teen’s family, school, and other relationships, early therapy is critical to assist your teen in developing a stable, healthy pattern for managing symptoms. Early intervention can also reduce the risk of substance abuse or suicidal conduct in people with the illness.

How do bipolar disorder symptoms differ in women from men?

Beginning with the initial onset of symptoms, bipolar disorder manifests differently in women than it does in males. Although bipolar disease affects both men and women equally, there are significant differences between the sexes in terms of symptoms like comorbidity, rate of diagnosis, and other aspects.

The prevalence of bipolar II disorder is higher in women

Women are typically diagnosed with bipolar II disorder more frequently than men, while bipolar I disorder is generally diagnosed in women later in life than in males. Misdiagnosis may have caused these alterations. However, research indicates that bipolar illness symptoms in women may differ from those in men frequently.

Bipolar disorder comes in three forms: Bipolar I is the first type characterized by manic episodes that last at least a week or by manic symptoms that are so severe that emergency medical attention is required. Depressive episodes, which typically last two weeks, also happen frequently. The bipolar II kind is the second. Bipolar II, a milder form of mania characterized by episodes of despair and hypomania, is more common among women.

Women’s bipolar disorder follows cycles

A 2021 article published in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders stated that women with bipolar disorder are more prone to experience depressive symptoms and rapid cycling, defined as four or more episodes of mania or depression occurring in a calendar year.

It is advised for bipolar female patients to monitor their menstrual cycles and moods closely. The postpartum period, which can continue up to six months following childbirth, is one stage of the reproductive cycle during which bipolar disorder can get worse.

One study found that 25 to 40% of women with bipolar illness had relapses during this period, indicating that this period is linked to a higher risk of bipolar development and relapse. Premenstruation, perimenopause, and menopause are other times when bipolar might get worse. In fact, due to the decreased estrogen levels during this time, depression is more prominent.

Men’s bipolar disorder may show up earlier

Regardless of sex, the earliest signs of bipolar disorder (depression and mania) commonly appear in your twenties. But according to data, males often have their first depressive episode around five years earlier than women. That equates to men being roughly 22 years old and women being about 27 years old. Similar statistics apply to mania, where the average age of onset for women is 25.9 years old and just under 22 for men.

Women are more prone to develop late-onset bipolar disorder

Another age-related difference in bipolar disorder is that late-onset bipolar disorder, or LOBD, is more common in women than men. At the same time, many researchers define LOBD as bipolar, which is first diagnosed at age 50 or older.

Some researchers also use the term to refer to those first diagnosed at age 40 and up. Many occurrences of women’s late-onset bipolar disorder are believed to be related to menopause. One in five bipolar women reports having trouble getting through menopause.

Mania affects women more than men

It is also noted that mixed mania is more commonly reported in women than in men (manic and depressive symptoms occurring at the same time). Nobody truly understands why certain bipolar illness sufferers exhibit mixed mania or why women are more prone than males to encounter this condition.

Women may naturally have a demonstrative temperament and mood, and this may help to explain why mixed mania affects them more frequently than men. In other words, since women typically experience and exhibit greater anxiety, even when depressed, they may experience mixed mania more frequently.

Men are less likely than women to raise concerns about an exaggerated sense of well-being and overconfidence that comes along with a manic episode. The issue is mainly with gender preconceptions than any differences in the symptoms between the sexes. In our culture, seeing a hyper-brazen, super-confident man is more commonplace than seeing the same conduct in a woman. As a result, detecting a manic episode in a male may be more challenging.

Women are misdiagnosed more often than men

Women are more likely than males to seek treatment for their bipolar condition, but they face greater barriers on the way to receiving it. Misdiagnosis is one of the leading causes of women receiving diagnoses more slowly than males.

According to research, women frequently have diagnosis delays of up to 11 years from the onset of symptoms because they are misdiagnosed or left undetected. (Men often have a similarly awful 7-year wait.) The most likely cause? Unipolar depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is frequently diagnosed in women.

According to research, women are 25% more likely than males to have had a major depressive illness misdiagnosed. This incorrect diagnosis raises the possibility of inappropriate antidepressant therapy, which can lead to manic episodes and rapid cycling. (Bipolar patients who undergo four or more mood episodes in a calendar year are said to be experiencing rapid cycling.)

For women, even the comorbidities vary

Women with bipolar disorder are more prone than men to suffer from additional medical issues such as thyroid disease, obesity, and migraines. For instance, research indicated that women with bipolar disorder have a threefold increased risk of migraines (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry). Women are particularly susceptible to most of these diseases since they share some hormonal components with bipolar disorder.

Additional inconsistent episodes in women

“Mixed episodes” are more common in women than in men. When you experience both mania (or hypomania) and depressive symptoms at the same time, this is known as a mixed episode. Men are more prone than women to experience distinct manic and depressive periods.

Women experience more anxiety and depression

During mixed episodes, women frequently experience anxiety sensations. Women with bipolar disorder are also more prone to experience panic episodes or panic disorder than men. In addition, women are more likely than males to experience a depressive episode initially, followed by a manic or hypomanic episode. Women are also more prone to have several depressive episodes and depression with psychosis during their lifetime.

Women experience additional triggers

Women are more likely to have seasonal triggers such as seasonal mood episodes, particularly in the spring and fall. Aside from seasonal triggers, women with bipolar illness may experience hormonal triggers. Symptoms may emerge (or resurface) before or after pregnancy and during menopause. Some women also experience symptoms that improve or worsen over their menstrual cycle.

These hormonal triggers are called”hormonal challenges” from month to month and from one reproductive event to the next, whether it be pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, or menopause, and this, too, may be connected to the gender-specific variations in how bipolar disorder and other mood disorders manifest in women.

BD symptoms are not to be confused with PMS

The signs of an impending depressive episode are frequently mistaken for premenstrual syndrome by many people. Mood swings are one of the symptoms of the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a syndrome that causes significant emotional and physical changes before a period.

Women frequently experience mood swings and think these changes are caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). A thorough evaluation is required because some women may have bipolar disorder or other severe mental conditions.

What contributes to bipolar disorder symptoms in women?

Though the exact cause of bipolar illness in women (BD) is unknown, genetic and inherited factors seem to contribute. Intense stress, catastrophic life events, and a family history of the illness are all potential risk factors. Bipolar disorder (BD) affects roughly 2.8% of the adult female population in the US, with an estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults exhibiting BD at some point in their lives.

It is well known that a woman’s biological makeup influences her propensity to experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder, which may explain why women may experience BD symptoms differently from men. According to a number of medical sources, bipolar symptoms may be triggered by physiological and biological functions that are specific to women. Among them are

  • Childbirth (bipolar illness can potentially increase months after a kid is born)
  • Changes in hormone levels during menstruation and pregnancy
  • Menopause

These are all thought to play a part in why women are more likely than males to experience some bipolar symptoms, and they are all known to cause depressive episodes. However, these biological functions are not believed to bring on the illness.

Pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation and their effect on bipolar disorder symptoms in females

Although they do not cause bipolar disorder, the fluctuating hormones that occur with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can potentially have an impact on how severe a woman’s condition is. The start and presentation of bipolar symptoms and the choice of treatment are affected by changes during the reproductive cycle.

Menstruation

Bipolar disorder symptoms may reportedly get worse during the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle, according to research. According to one study, premenstrual depression affected 25% of female bipolar patients. The effects of lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid), a medication for bipolar disorder, may be slightly changed by the hormones present during menstruation. This could make the drug less effective.

Pregnancy

It is believed that pregnancy, however, can make bipolar disorder worse. Compared to pregnant women without bipolar disorder, those who are pregnant or just gave birth have a seven-fold higher chance of being admitted to the hospital. Postpartum psychosis, a medical emergency, is most likely to occur in women with bipolar disorder. According to research, among women with bipolar disorder following symptoms were reported.

  • A third of women report symptoms right before giving birth.
  • After delivery, 20–30% of women have psychosis.
  • 36% of people first exhibit bipolar symptoms in the weeks after giving birth.
  • There is a 24-40% probability that symptoms will come back in the weeks following childbirth.
  • After delivery, 10–20% of women have hypomania.

Menopause

Around 20% of females with bipolar disorder see worsening symptoms around menopause, primarily depression. According to certain studies, older women may use higher pharmaceutical dosages than younger women.

Furthermore, women who receive hormone-based treatment for menopausal symptoms appear less likely to experience worsening bipolar illness symptoms. These results might indicate a connection between declining estrogen levels and worsening symptoms.

Bipolar disorder treatment in females

When it comes to managing the symptoms of female bipolar disorder, treatment is frequently quite effective. Therapy and medicine are typically used in conjunction with treatment. Mood stabilizers and second-generation antipsychotics may be prescribed for bipolar disorders.

Bipolar disorder has no known cure. However, medication allows the majority of people with bipolar disorder to have fewer depressed and manic episodes. Bipolar disorder patients will require treatment for the rest of their life to regulate their symptoms. Bipolar disorder treatment may include

  • Medicine: To regulate a BD sufferer’s mood, they should probably start taking medication straight soon. Lithium and other mood stabilizers, as well as certain antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants, are examples of medications.

In bipolar depression, antidepressants can raise the chance of mania. Women are more prone than males to gain weight as a result of these medications. Women may also require a lower starting dose of a medication than men. 1 Medicines can take several weeks or months to work.

  • Therapy, often known as talk therapy: Talk therapy can help people manage their bipolar symptoms by assisting them in recognizing when they are experiencing or are about to experience a manic or depressed episode.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): ECT is a sort of treatment that stimulates areas of the brain with low doses of electricity. This treatment is typically utilized when other treatments, such as medication and talk therapy, have failed. Although electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is commonly used to treat severe depressive episodes, it can also be utilized to treat manic episodes.
  • Hospitalization: People with bipolar disorder may occasionally need to spend a short time in the hospital if they experience prolonged bouts of intense mania or depression, along with suicidal thoughts or psychosis (the inability to distinguish between what is real and what is not).

Consult a physician, nurse, or mental health specialist as soon as possible if you believe that you or someone you know has bipolar disorder. The more quickly you receive therapy for bipolar disorder, the better it works. Bring a list of the signs and instances of behaviors that you believe may point to bipolar disorder.

What are the effects of bipolar disorder on a woman’s everyday life?

When left untreated, bipolar disorder can seriously impair a woman’s capacity to operate. When a person with bipolar disorder does not receive treatment for their disease, their day may appear very limited. Severe bipolar disorder can impair their ability to work, attend school, form healthy relationships, or engage in meaningful activities.

Depressive episodes are often incapacitating. Depression symptoms experienced during these times can make it difficult to get out of bed or engage with others. Even though bipolar disorder is cyclical, it can feel as if a depressive episode will never end.

Manic episodes, on the other hand, are frequently overwhelming. Some females with bipolar disorder use manic episodes to compensate for “lost time” during a depressive episode. They may make numerous plans and keep themselves busy. During manic periods, people are more inclined to engage in dangerous conduct, such as substance misuse.

However, after a person receives therapy for bipolar disorder, their life resembles that of any other individual. They may obtain and maintain satisfying careers, have strong relationships, and enjoy life. Although they may feel more “up” or “down” than others, they can learn to manage their bipolar condition and function in daily life.

Bipolar woman relationships

There will always be difficulties in any love relationship, but bipolar disease can make things even more difficult in many areas of life. What you can expect in a relationship with a woman with bipolar disorder depends on where she is in her therapy.

If she is going to the doctor and taking her medication as prescribed but still experiencing symptoms, you can expect the following: sex obsession, possible religiosity (becoming obsessed with religion), sleeping all day and up all night, rapid speaking and thoughts, spending money (going to the grocery store for eggs and bread and returning with $500 worth of groceries she doesn’t need), irritability.

When depression sets in, which is unavoidable following a period of mania, a female suffering from BD may want to sleep all the time, be irritated, eat too much or too little, and be lethargic, depressed, and possibly suicidal. She will despise herself for some of the things she did when manic.

As there is a positive aspect to everything thus when manic, she will be pleasant and fun, occasionally even giddy, along with the horniness. But obviously, for someone who isn’t manic, it is exhausting trying to keep up with their partner, nevertheless. It can work if you view this as a long-term partnership and she is dedicated to maintaining her mental health. But it won’t if she isn’t committed to mental health.

For the individual going through bipolar disorder, mania is positively hilarious. A female suffering from BD will be extremely friendly, active, and outgoing, and she will believe she is the most intelligent person in any room. It’s challenging to persuade a manic person to take their medication. Some bipolar individuals only seek treatment and medication when a depressive episode occurs.

Bipolar disorder may also have an impact on your partner’s capacity for effective work performance. It can be challenging to find and hold a job when a person experiences frequent mood swings, manic symptoms like impulsivity and poor judgment, or depressive symptoms like fatigue and disinterest.

Workplace stressors may potentially set off or aggravate your partner’s symptoms. If your partner is unable to work, you may feel additional pressure to assist them financially until their sickness is under control.

It might be challenging to be in a relationship with a woman with bipolar disorder since you can’t predict when they will have a mood change. Their mania can even be nerve-wracking for you as you won’t be able to match their energy but still, nothing is impossible. Communicate well, assist in the therapy of your partner, and don’t neglect your own needs if you want your relationship to succeed.

The significance of a support system

Social support is crucial for coping with bipolar disorder symptoms in females throughout their teen and adult years, in addition to medical care. This is especially true when it comes to having a reliable source of support who is there for you during your highs and lows.  A support system gives the person suffering from BD a sense of security that they are not abandoned and have someone by their side; this encourages them to get themselves treated for bipolar disorder.

Having someone to look out for us and guide us in recognizing bipolar illness symptoms when they emerge can be of enormous value. If you strongly want to help someone suffering from bipolar disorder you should schedule an immediate appointment with a mental health professional as it can be one of the best ways to aid in their betterment.

Conclusion

There are specific BD variants that affect women. According to some experts, women with bipolar disorder may experience significant depressive symptoms more frequently than males do, and they may also develop the condition earlier in life. In women, BD may also coexist with other medical conditions such as anxiety disorders, thyroid troubles, and obesity. Additionally, compared to bipolar I condition, women may be more likely to acquire bipolar II disorder.

Nevertheless, bipolar disorder can affect both men and women, although it affects them in different ways. The contribution of female reproductive hormones is a significant factor in this. Fortunately, women with bipolar disorder have a good prognosis with appropriate medical care and symptom management. Even doctors are making progress in understanding bipolar disease and its particular features in women.

Remember that assistance is available if you or someone you know is suffering from bipolar disorder. You can learn how to cope with bipolar disorder or help others cope, even though it may seem impossible to do so. Combining psychotherapy, medication, and continuing mental health care can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms in females effectively.

Author

Nabeel Ahmad is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lone Mind. Apart from Lone Mind, he is a serial entrepreneur, and has founded multiple successful companies in different industries.

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