Does bipolar disorder get worse with age?

Does bipolar disorder get worse with age?

In general, it cannot be said that bipolar disorder necessarily worsens with age, but it is possible to experience changes in the frequency and severity of its episodes as people age. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by episodes of drastic mood swings, from mania to depression.

Although it affects people of all ages, there is some question about how bipolar disorder changes as people age. In fact, one of the main concerns is whether bipolar disorder worsens with age. In this Psychologyorg article, we will discuss the evolution of bipolar disorder in the different stages of life, from childhood to old age, and we will explain the most common symptoms in each stage.

Does bipolar disorder get worse with age?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness that affects people’s moods and is characterized by episodes of mania and depression. The severity of the episodes can vary over time and will depend on several factors, such as the severity of the disorder, adherence to treatment, social support, and the person’s lifestyle.

In general, it cannot be said that bipolar disorder worsens with age. However, individuals with bipolar disorder may experience changes in the frequency, duration, and severity of their episodes as they age. For example, manic episodes may be less frequent but more severe in older people with bipolar disorder.

It’s also important to note that older people may be taking other medications that can interact with bipolar disorder medications, which can affect the effectiveness of treatment. For this reason, it is important that older people with bipolar disorder work closely with their doctor to manage their illness and adjust their treatment as needed.

Evolution of bipolar disorder with age

Although bipolar disorder can appear at any age, the symptoms and their severity can vary depending on the stage of life in which it occurs. Next, we will see if bipolar disorder worsens with age:


During childhood, bipolar disorder is often difficult to detect and diagnose. Children with this mental illness may show the following symptoms.

  • Persistent and irritable mood.
  • Agitation.
  • Aggression and impulsivity.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork.


It is common to wonder what a bipolar person is like in the period of adolescence. At this stage, this disorder manifests with an episode of depression and mania, in which these symptoms manifest:

  • Risky behavior.
  • rapid mood swings
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating, due to the difficulty they have in following the rules.

It is a complicated stage to establish a diagnosis since it is difficult to differentiate the behavior of the disorder from the emotional changes experienced by the adolescent. It is important to note that, because of bipolar disorder, there is an increased risk that the adolescent will have difficulties establishing interpersonal relationships and that they will be prone to suicidal thoughts in depressive episodes.


In adulthood, the symptoms of bipolar disorder may manifest in a similar way to the earlier stages described, but they may become more intense and frequent. Specifically, it usually manifests itself as follows:

  • Manic and depressive episodes.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Labor or financial problems.
  • Problems in their interpersonal relationships.
  • Risk of comorbidity with other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and substance use disorders.

Old age

During the old age of bipolar disorder, the symptoms may worsen, due to physiological changes and a higher prevalence of medical and psychiatric comorbidities. So what traits does a bipolar person have in old age?

  • Changes in your mood are more intense than in your youth.
  • Cognitive problems.
  • physical problems.
  • Social isolation.
  • Difficulty falling asleep.

What makes bipolar disorder worse? Seniors with bipolar disorder may experience similar symptoms and have difficulty adhering to treatment, due to memory problems or medication side effects.

Does bipolar disorder get worse with age?

Does bipolar disorder affect life expectancy?

As a chronic mental illness, bipolar disorder can have a significant impact on the quality of life of people who suffer from it, as well as their life expectancy. In general, people with bipolar disorder have been shown to have a shorter life expectancy than the general population, but this is due to many factors, not just the disease itself.

Studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder are at increased risk of chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, lung disease, and stroke.

These illnesses can be the direct result of bipolar disorder as well as lifestyle factors such as alcohol use, smoking, an unhealthy diet, or lack of exercise. Additionally, people with bipolar disorder are also at increased risk of suicide and self-harm, which can reduce their life expectancy.

Does bipolar disorder treatment affect life expectancy?

The treatment of bipolar disorder can also affect the life expectancy of people who have it. Some medications used are effective in controlling symptoms but can have long-term side effects. Here are some examples:

  • Antipsychotic drugs: May increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Mood-stabilizing drugs, such as lithium, can have toxic effects on the kidney and thyroid, which can shorten life expectancy.

In addition, bipolar disorder can also affect adherence to treatment and appropriate medical care. In this regard, people with bipolar disorder may find it difficult to stay on a consistent treatment regimen, due to the fluctuating nature of the illness. This can cause relapses, increase the risk of health complications, and decrease life expectancy.

Ultimately, bipolar disorder can have a significant impact on the life expectancy of people who suffer from it. Leading a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and support, can help reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve quality of life.

Does bipolar disorder get worse with age?

If you want to read more articles similar to Does bipolar disorder get worse with age?, we recommend that you enter our category of Mental Disorders.


Does bipolar disorder generally worsen as a person gets older?

The progression of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person. While some individuals may experience an exacerbation of symptoms with age, others may find their condition stabilizes or even improves. It is essential to monitor symptoms closely and seek professional guidance for personalized management.

Are there specific signs that indicate bipolar disorder is worsening in older adults?

Signs of worsening bipolar disorder in older adults may include more frequent and severe mood swings, increased difficulty in managing daily activities, changes in sleep patterns, and greater challenges in coping with stress. Recognizing these signs and seeking timely intervention is crucial.

Can age-related factors contribute to the worsening of bipolar disorder?

Age-related factors, such as changes in hormonal levels, increased medical comorbidities, and lifestyle adjustments, can potentially impact the course of bipolar disorder. Additionally, age-related stressors, such as retirement or loss of loved ones, might also influence the condition’s progression.

Is it possible for bipolar disorder to develop later in life?

Yes, bipolar disorder can develop for the first time in older adults. Some individuals may not have experienced significant symptoms earlier in life or may have had other mental health conditions misdiagnosed. Late-onset bipolar disorder requires careful assessment and diagnosis by qualified mental health professionals.

How can older adults manage bipolar disorder effectively as they age?

Older adults can effectively manage bipolar disorder through a combination of treatment approaches. Staying compliant with prescribed medications, attending regular therapy or counseling sessions, adopting healthy lifestyle habits, maintaining a stable daily routine, and having a support network can be instrumental in managing the condition and improving overall well-being.

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