Why Some Men Ignore Their Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Do bipolar disorder symptoms look different in males? Although it would be easier if everyone experienced the same symptoms and responded the same way to treatment, bipolar disorder is different for everyone. What's more, certain biological differences affect how bipolar disorder symptoms manifest in men, compared to how symptoms of bipolar manifest in women. Let's examine bipolar disorder symptoms in males and why they often get ignored.
What Are the Bipolar Disorder Symptoms for Males?
Bipolar disorder symptoms in males are more common than they are in females. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.9% of men in the U.S. experience significant shifts in mood that meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, compared with 2.8% of women. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are the same across both genders, although biological and environmental gender differences do have a part to play.
Common bipolar disorder symptoms in males and females include:
- Mania, defined as at least one “manic” episode that’s characterized by abnormal levels of energy, grandiose ideas, racing thoughts, less need for sleep, hypersexuality, impulsive spending and fast, erratic speech. Men are more likely to become aggressive during mania and are more prone to hypersexuality.
- Hypomania, a milder form of mania that lasts for at least four days at a time. The symptoms of hypomania are similar to mania but less severe.
- Major depression, usually defined by intense sadness, hopelessness, guilt, lack of interest in once-enjoyed activities, changes to eating and sleeping habits and suicidal thoughts. Depression is typically present in bipolar I and II disorders. Sadly, suicide is 3.5 times more common in men than in women, with the rate being highest in middle-aged white men ("Bipolar Facts and Statistics: Bipolar Disorder is Real").
It is common for people with bipolar disorder to have periods of normality between episodes. Some individuals experience “rapid cycling,” where moods fluctuate quickly with no “normal” periods in-between. Mixed states, where both depression and mania/hypomania are present, affect around 20-40% of people with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in Men: Why Are They Different?
Research indicates that gender plays a role in the experience of bipolar disorder because the illness so strongly impacts emotional and psychological states. Here are some of the ways bipolar disorder symptoms affect men differently than women.
- Denial: Denial is a feature of bipolar disorder, specifically denial that anything is “wrong” or that behavior is abnormal or dangerous. According to Henry A. Montero, a board-certified Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), men may be more inclined to deny the emotional element of the disorder because they are “taught not to show emotion.”
- Aggression: Anger and aggression can affect both sexes, and they are not necessarily symptomatic of bipolar disorder. While most people presume that a man’s tendency to violence is innate, research shows that aggression in males stems from both environmental and biological factors, much more so that it does in women ("Do Mood Stabilizers Help Manage Bipolar Anger?").
- Hypersexuality: Hypersexuality is defined as excessive “sexual fantasies, urges, and actual sexual action and behavior." According to the Depression Alliance, hypersexuality is most common in men between the ages of 15 and 25.
Bipolar disorder symptoms in males are not always obvious. Although research suggests that women have a slightly higher risk of developing the disorder, the outcome can be more dangerous for men – with many afraid to speak out about their symptoms or accept help for the condition.
If you or someone you know displays symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s important to consult a qualified doctor. Bipolar can’t be cured, but there are plenty of treatments and medications that help many people with bipolar live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Smith, E. (2019, May 18). Why Some Men Ignore Their Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-symptoms/why-some-men-ignore-their-bipolar-disorder-symptoms