Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that causes extreme shifts in mood or behavior. A person who has bipolar disorder has feelings of euphoria, extreme restlessness, and agitation when experiencing a manic episode. The opposite end of the spectrum is the period of depression that follows the euphoric, invincible stage. The subsequent depression can be so debilitating that the person experiencing it may have self-destructive or suicidal thoughts. Although the diagnosis of bipolar disorder occurs equally in men and women, there are some subtle gender differences in symptoms and behaviors.
<strong>Differences in the Onset of Bipolar Disorder</strong>
Women often experience a depressive episode that leads to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Women experience the mania, restlessness, impulsivity and euphoria associated with the disease, but the initial onset of the disorder in women usually manifests itself in the form of depression, hopelessness or extreme despair.
<strong>Rapid Cycling is More Common in Women</strong>
Rapid cycling bipolar is defined as having four or more cycles of depression and mania in one year. Women are more prone to this type of bipolar disorder than men are. Rapid cycle bipolar disorder seems to be resistant to the usual treatment prescribed for bipolar disorder, making it more difficult to stabilize the person suffering from the rapid cycling condition.
<strong>Hormones Play a Role in Treating Bipolar Disorder in Women</strong>
Reproductive hormones can complicate the symptoms and treatment of bipolar disorder in women. In pregnancy, women are at a higher risk of recurrent bipolar episodes and depression because many of the medications used to treat bipolar disorder can cause harm to the fetus. Women who are bipolar often opt to go off their medications during pregnancy and lactation.
Perimenopausal and menopausal women experience increases in depressive episodes as the estrogen levels in their bodies begin to decline.
<strong>Women are More Likely to Engage in Impulsive Spending</strong>
Women love to shop. When a woman is having a manic episode, she is more likely than her male counterpart to go on a mall shopping spree, drive up her credit card balance, or overdraw her checking account. Reckless spending occurs when you buy ten pair of black pants because they’re on sale, or the same shirt in every color.
<strong>Women with Bipolar Disorder are More Likely to Seek Treatment</strong>
Women who have bipolar disorder are not as reluctant to seek treatment for their symptoms as men are. Women often voluntarily seek psychological counseling for their unsettling symptoms and receive early intervention and treatment.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are treatable. Professional and consistent care, in conjunction with positive lifestyle changes and knowledge of the disease, can help women with bipolar disorder lead happy, productive lives.