Bipolar disorder (BD) is a mental illness that affects nearly 6 million adults in the United States alone, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. It is characterized by extreme mood swings that alternate between periods of high energy and euphoria (mania or hypomania) and periods of deep depression and hopelessness.
What is the Age of Onset for Bipolar Disorder?
During Childhood and Adolescence
Bipolar disorder can develop in childhood or adolescence, but it is not always easy to conclusively diagnose the disorder during this stage of development. According to available medical data, the prevalence of bipolar disorder ranges between 1 to 5 percent in children and adolescents aged 18 years and below.
It is worth noting that bipolar disorder is often hard to diagnose in young children and adolescents and is often mistaken for other psychological issues.
The most common age of onset for bipolar disorder is in the late teenage years or early adulthood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the average age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years.
Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose during this stage of development as well because many of the symptoms, such as mood swings and risky behavior, are common in young adults. In some cases, individuals may be misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety and it may take years to correctly diagnose the disorder.
Late-onset bipolar disorder refers to individuals who experience their first manic episode in their 40s or 50s. Late onset of bipolar disorder is very rare – studies show that less than 10 percent of BD cases will develop after 50 years, and the number drops to less than 5 percent after 60 years.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of bipolar disorder. Familial studies show that more than two-thirds of people with bipolar disorder have close relatives with either bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.
Environmental factors can also play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. Stressful life events, such as trauma, major life changes, or the loss of a loved one, can trigger bipolar disorder in individuals who are already at risk. Substance abuse and sleep disturbances can also increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder.
Brain Structure, Chemistry, and Functioning
Neuroimaging studies have revealed differences in the brain structure, chemistry, and functioning of individuals with bipolar disorder compared to healthy individuals. Researchers believe that these altered brain states may also play a role in the development of bipolar disorder.
How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing treatment. Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. Medications, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, can help control mood swings and prevent manic or depressive episodes.
Psychotherapy is focused on teaching individuals coping skills, helping them recognize their triggers, and providing support for managing the symptoms. Lifestyle modifications such as stress management, practicing sleep hygiene, and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can also help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a common and often debilitating mood disorder that can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or social background. It can develop at any age but is more common in late adolescence or early adulthood. If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of bipolar disorder, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible.
Bipolar disorder is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, but with proper treatment and support, you can learn to manage your symptoms and lead a healthy and productive life.