Bipolar disorder is a mental health concern that impacts a person’s mood, energy levels, and ability to focus.
Most people who have bipolar disorder experience manic, hypomanic, or major depressive episodes:
- Manic episodes involve increased activity levels, heightened sense of self-confidence, and racing thoughts, lasting most of the day, every day, for at least one week.
- Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, with symptoms lasting for four days.
- Major depressive episodes are characterized by profound sadness, problems with focus or concentration, persistent fatigue, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns, with symptoms lasting for most of the day, every day, for at least a week.
Adult women and adolescent girls who experience any of these episodes may find it difficult to meet their personal, professional, or academic responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. The unpredictable nature of bipolar disorder, and the range of symptoms that a woman or girl may experience, can undermine her ability to enjoy a satisfying and productive life.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder are influenced by which type of bipolar disorder a woman or girl has developed. The three most common types of bipolar disorder are:
- Bipolar I disorder: To be accurately diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, a woman or girl must have at least one manic episode. She may also show signs and symptoms of hypomanic or major depressive episodes, but these are not required for this diagnosis.
- Bipolar II disorder: Women and girls who have at least one hypomanic episode and at least one major depressive episode may be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
- Cyclothymic disorder: For adult women, the criteria for a diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder includes having extended periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms over a span of at least two years, but never experiencing a full manic, hypomanic, or major depressive episode. For adolescent girls, the timeframe for these symptoms is one year.
Please note that the only way to receive an accurate diagnosis for any type of bipolar disorder is to complete a through assessment with a qualified professional.
Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person depending on which type of episode she is experiencing.
During a manic or hypomanic episode, a woman or girl may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Inflated sense of self-confidence or self-esteem
- Elevated energy levels
- Minimal need for sleep
- Speaking very rapidly
- Jumping from topic to topic during conversations
- Easily distracted
- Taking on multiple projects
- Dangerous or risky behaviors, such as gambling large amounts of money, engaging in unsafe sex, or spending excessively
During a depressive episode, a woman or girl who has bipolar disorder may demonstrate signs and symptoms such as:
- Being extremely sad or subdued
- Losing interest in topics or activities that were previously of great importance to her
- Finding it difficult or impossible to experience joy or pleasure
- Significant unintentional change in weight (can include weight loss or weight gain)
- Sleep problems, including sleeping too little or too much
- Overwhelming sense of fatigue or exhaustion
- Problems focusing, concentrating, or making decisions
- Frequent thoughts of death and dying, including thoughts of suicide
Any woman or girl who displays the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder may need professional care, and she should seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.
Common Causes & Risk Factors of Bipolar Disorder
Researchers have not identified one definitive cause of bipolar disorder. However, studies have revealed several causes and risk factors that can raise a person’s risk for developing bipolar disorder.
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these include:
- Living in a higher-income nation
- Being separated, divorced, or widowed
- Having an adult relative who has bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder
- Having a family history of schizophrenia or other mental health disorders
Bipolar Disorder Statistics
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported the following statistics about bipolar disorder in the United States:
- Among adults age 18 and older, the lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder is 4.4%.
- Nearly 83% of adults who have bipolar disorder meet the criteria for serious impairment as established by the Sheehan Disability Scale.
- In the past 12 months, about 2.8% of adult women in the U.S. exhibited the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder.
- Bipolar disorder impacts about 3.3% of adolescent girls.
Potential Effects of Bipolar Disorder
The effects of bipolar disorder can vary depending on several factors, including which type of bipolar disorder a woman or girl has been experiencing. In general, common effects of bipolar disorder include:
- Problems forming and maintaining friendships
- Strained relationships with family members
- Setbacks at work or in school
- Inability to find and keep a job
- Injuries or diseases related to reckless behaviors
- Financial difficulties
- Onset or worsening of other mental health disorders
- Substance use and addiction
- Social isolation
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
The risk of suicide among women and girls who have bipolar disorder is significant. As noted in this 2019 study that was published on the website of the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as 60% of people who have bipolar disorder attempt suicide, and as many as 20% of people who have bipolar disorder die by suicide.
If you have been struggling with the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, please know that you can achieve improved health. Professional care can help you manage your symptoms and limit your risk for the negative effects of bipolar disorder.
Common Underlying or Co-Occurring Disorders
When a girl or woman develops bipolar disorder, she may also have an elevated risk for certain other mental or behavioral health concerns.
The prevalence of co-occurring disorders among women and girls who have bipolar disorder is one of the many reasons why it’s important to get help from a qualified provider who can identify and address the full scope of your needs.
At Timberline Knolls, women and girls who have been struggling with bipolar disorder complete thorough assessments and follow individualized plans. Our center is ready to help you manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder and make sustained progress toward improved health.
This content was reviewed and approved by the clinical staff at Timberline Knolls.