Bipolar Disorder and Aging

Do people who have bipolar disorder get worse as age increases?



According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is possible for bipolar disorder to worsen as a person ages. But this does not mean that previous medications and therapy were failures. It just means that it is possible to have a setback. It is a bit like a cancer patient being declared cancer-free and then, years later, their cancer reappears.

This is not necessarily bad news, according to my psychologist. She says that as we grow older our self-awareness increases and we become in tune with the signs and grow more familiar with the patterns of our episodes over the years. Inherently we begin to sense when a setback is approaching. Some people recognize that certain times of the year may trigger symptoms for them. Others may feel more subtle signs such as a sudden need to stay awake all night.

This knowledge allows us to take the necessary steps, such as a med change or increased therapy, to push us back into the safety zone. In younger years, we may have lacked the experience to recognize symptoms and make this correction. If you are nearing senior years, ensure that you refresh your knowledge of the warning signs of mania and depression. If you feel you are slipping out of “the zone,” discuss your symptoms with your therapist and/or psychiatrist for potential med adjustments. Remember, we are our own best mental heal advocates,

Learning The Warning Signs

Symptoms of mania include:

  • Excessive energy, activity, restlessness
  • Racing thoughts and rapid/excessive talking
  • Denial that anything is wrong
  • Extreme high or euphoric feelings
  • Easily irritated or distracted
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one’s ability and powers
  • Hyperactivity and excessive planning
  • Uncharacteristically poor judgment
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Drug abuse–particularly cocaine, alcohol or sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Sad, empty or anxious mood that won’t go away
  • Irregular sleep
  • Persistent lethargy and fatigue
  • Change in weight and appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Aches, pains, constipation & physical ailments
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Poor ability to focus, concentrate and remember
  • Suicidal thoughts and expressions
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness.

The impact of living with bipolar disorder over a lifetime is not clearly known. What IS known is that proper management of the disorder is the key to living a full and productive life.

One of the challenges of living with bipolar disorder, or any other chronic illness, is managing the uncertainty over time. A good strategy for this is to influence those aspects of life you can. Be sure to exercise; eat well; control cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar; and keep doing things that exercise your brain. Your goal is to be the healthiest person living with bipolar disorder that you can be.

I hope that you’ve found this to be helpful to you. Wishing you the very best of mental health wellness–Dori


Other posts by Ask A Bipolar That Relate:

Bipolar and Aging by Angel

Bipolar Disorder and Menopause by Shari

Does Your Ability To Stabilize Your Bipolar Change As You Age? by Vicky

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