Do the Symptoms of Bipolar Get Worse with Age?

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can appear at any age, but most people experience symptoms beginning in their late teens or early adolescence.
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Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes wide fluctuations in mood and energy level. Symptoms of this disorder can appear at any age, but most people experience symptoms beginning in their late teens or early adolescence.

While everyone experiences mood swings at times, a person with bipolar disorder experiences extreme differences in mood that can affect their ability to think clearly and can interfere with their day-to-day life. It’s common for a person with bipolar disorder to wonder what will happen in the future, such as whether their symptoms will get worse with age and whether there is any hope of eventually coming off of medication.

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Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The severity of symptoms of bipolar can vary from one person to another. Mood swings include episodes of both mania and depression, which may occur in rapid sequence or may seem to go away for a period of time, sometimes for months or years.

Mania is a hallmark symptom of bipolar disorder, and a person has to have experienced at least one episode of mania or hypomania in order to be diagnosed with this condition. Hypomania is a less intense form of mania. Symptoms of mania include:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Talkativeness
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Agitation
  • Increased energy
  • Sense of euphoria or exaggerated self-confidence

One or more episodes of mania may alternate with periods of depression, which includes lack of energy and loss of interest in activities. During a major depressive episode, a person may sleep too much, be unable to concentrate and may consider suicide.

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

It can be difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder, because symptoms sometimes resemble other conditions. Since a person experiencing mania or hypomania feels happy and energetic, he or she may only tell their doctor about depressive episodes, leading to a misdiagnosis of depression. Mania may sometimes lead to psychotic episodes, which can trigger a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder won’t go away on their own, but treatment can help to bring symptoms under control. Early identification of symptoms allows a person with bipolar disorder to have the opportunity to receive treatment, which usually includes both medication and psychotherapy. While bipolar disorder can’t be cured, symptoms can be controlled with an effective treatment plan

Untreated Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar may worsen with age or over time if this condition is left untreated. As time goes on, a person may experience episodes that are more severe and more frequent than when symptoms first appeared. The longer symptoms continue without treatment, the more likely a person may experience problems in personal relationships or daily responsibilities.

Refusing to believe that treatment continues to be needed can also lead to worsening of symptoms. It’s not uncommon for a person with bipolar disorder to believe they are cured if their symptoms start to improve, and they may attempt to discontinue taking their medication. This can lead to a quick return of symptoms.

Untreated bipolar disorder may also lead to inappropriate coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. Misuse of substances can exaggerate or prolong symptoms of both mania and depression. Symptoms of mania can lead to difficulty controlling reckless behavior including drinking too much, driving too fast or behaving aggressively toward others.

With or without substance abuse, episodes of mania can cause destructive actions that may not occur if the bipolar symptoms were under control. These actions can ultimately lead to legal problems because of acts such as road rage, domestic violence or stealing money to support compulsive spending behavior or drug addiction.

Controlling Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The good news is that it is possible to effectively control symptoms of bipolar disorder by following the treatment plan created by a doctor or team of mental health professionals. While symptoms may worsen with age if the condition is left untreated, obtaining effective treatment should prevent this from happening.

In most cases, bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness that will continue to require treatment, but following a bipolar treatment plan that includes taking medication as prescribed and attending therapy sessions can help to stabilize mood swings and stop symptoms from getting worse with age.

If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of bipolar or another mental health disorder, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.

If you’re ready to start your recovery, we’re here to help.

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