Do Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Differ in Adults of Different Age Groups?
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Clinically Reviewed 
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Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder. It involves episodes of mania and depression. These episodes can swing suddenly from one to the other or can occur intermittently with periods of balance in between. Bipolar disorder affects 1 out of every 40 people in the U.S. There are three main types of bipolar disorder. These include bipolar 1 disorder, bipolar 2 disorder and cyclothymic disorder. The symptoms may vary slightly based on the type a person has been diagnosed with, but did you know that the symptoms of bipolar disorder can differ in adults of different age groups too? 


You can find out more details about how the symptoms might look for people in three different age groups with bipolar disorder. If you think you might have bipolar disorder, you can read about how to recognize manic and depressive episodes here.


How do the symptoms of bipolar disorder present in the youngest adult age group?


Research found that the symptoms of bipolar disorder do present differently between adult age groups. The youngest group ranged from ages 18 to 29 years old. The symptoms among the study’s participants, ages 18 to 29, were consistent with the most commonly understood symptoms of bipolar disorder. During periods of mania, symptoms include:


  • Increased activity
  • Increased energy
  • Impulsive decision-making
  • Poor sleep
  • Increased self-confidence


During depressive periods, the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:


  • Poor mood
  • Excessive sleep
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased interest in regular activities


The study found that the youngest age group was more likely to experience frequent and chronic depressive symptoms that were deemed a significant emotional burden. It also found that participants who were diagnosed at an early age had the second-highest average number of weeks where they were in a depressive episode (24.4%). Furthermore, for those in the 18-year-old to 29-year-old age group, the length of depressive episodes tended to increase across the age range. The results for this age group also found that this group had the highest average time spent in manic or hypomanic (a milder form of manic) episodes (10.8%). 


How do the symptoms of bipolar disorder present in the middle adult age group?


The same research found that people aged 30 to 44 years old experienced all of the same symptoms as the younger group. However, the frequency with which their depressive episodes occurred was higher. In fact, they had the highest average number of weeks in a depressive episode of the groups in the study (30%). The amount of time this group experienced depressive episodes also tended to increase across the age range of the group. The middle age group had the second-highest average percentage of time in manic or hypomanic episodes (8.5%).


How do the symptoms of bipolar disorder present in the eldest adult age group?


The eldest age group, composed of adults older than 44 years of age, did not experience the same rates of depressive symptoms as the middle and youngest age groups. The rates of depressive symptoms were lower, and they had the lowest average number of weeks in depressive episodes (22.8%). The study found that this group experienced the lowest number of manic or hypomanic episodes (5.9%). Despite no statistically significant increases in depression symptoms among the oldest group, bipolar disorder can progress over time especially if left untreated. Treatment, whether that involves therapy, medication or both, can significantly improve the quality of life for someone with bipolar disorder.


Lightfully can help you begin the treatment you need to manage your bipolar disorder


Our mission at Lightfully is to provide high-quality mental health care to various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. We have extensive experience working with clients who have bipolar disorder, and we’re confident that we can help you manage your symptoms over time.


Lightfully offers various levels of care to both adults and teens: Residential Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also referred to as our Day Treatment Program. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) for adults. If you have experienced bipolar disorder-related suicidal ideations lately, we’d like to help you. Lightfully is one of the only programs to accept clients with a history of suicide attempts directly into our Residential Treatment Program. Residential treatment programs can be a gentler alternative to inpatient units and are often preferred by most clients. If you have a history of suicidality and you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to a bipolar disorder specialist today for help.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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