Bipolar Disorder Affects Men And Women Differently

New research shows that bipolar disorder is biologically different in men and woman.

Depression and bipolar disorder are among the most frequently occurring mental illnesses in both men and women. Most people have a good idea of what depression is, but not everyone knows the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. While depression is relatively easier to diagnose, many medical practitioners are not able to accurately diagnose bipolar disorder. This is because depression comes with extremely concrete symptoms, and has very little variance in how it manifests itself in both men and women, Bipolar disorder on the other hand is more dependent on the severity and the individual, and there can be long period between a depressive and a manic episode. This can make it more challenging to get an accurate diagnosis. Bipolar disorder affects both men and women in equal numbers, but in different ways.

Overview Of Bipolar Disorder

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Though many of us may have an idea of what bipolar disorder is, most people don’t always have a good understanding of how the disorder works. Essentially, bipolar disorder causes the patient to suffer from extreme shifts in their mood, usually going from a long period of clinical depression to an erratic period of mania. In the depressive state, sufferers have clear-cut symptoms of clinical depression: continuous low mood, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, irritability and lack of concentration, loss of interest in daily activities, and worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness among other symptoms. In bipolar disorder, the depressive episode can last for months before a manic episode shows up. A manic episode consists of an extremely elevated mood, unpredictable behavior, high energy and excessive activity, racing thoughts, inability to concentrate on one task, impatience, not wanting to sleep and bouts of dangerous and risky behavior, such as shopping without regard for financial status or finding multiple sexual partners every day. There are two different kinds of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. In bipolar I, people suffer from periods of depression followed by a single period of mania that lasts a few days to a few weeks at the most. In bipolar II, depressive episodes are followed up with hypomania, which is similar to mania but has milder and more subdued symptoms.

Gender Differences In Bipolar Disorder

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In the past, medical practitioners believed that bipolar disorder affects men and women similarly. While there has been past research that has shown there is some difference in men and women, the default diagnosis is based on what men experience. For example, researchers did know that pregnancy can trigger an episode in women and the disorder shows up later in life for women when compared to men, and that men are more likely to have problems with alcohol and drugs when diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, new research shows that not only is bipolar disorder different in how it manifests in men and women, but also that there are distinct biological differences in men and women with bipolar disorder. The research was conducted at Pennsylvania State University, and found that abnormalities in the immune system functioning is related to how bipolar disorder develops in people.

The Research Findings

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People who are suffering from bipolar disorder are also seen to have autoimmune issues, and that their immune “markers” in the body are different when compared to healthy individuals. Two of these “markers” are zinc and neopterin blood levels, and both of these are elevated in bipolar disorder. When women had higher levels of zinc in their blood, they had more severe episodes of depression. On the other hand, high levels of neopterin in men made them have a more severe manic episode. However, high levels of neopterin in women and high levels of zinc in men did not have the same effect as it did on the other gender. This essentially means that the immune system is going haywire in different ways in men and women. Women are more prone to depressive episodes than men in bipolar disorder, and this finding can help to treat each gender more effectively. Currently, both genders have the same treatment in medication for this disorder, but this new research shows that this may not always be effective. Individual and personalized treatment is important because each person reacts differently to medication, and usually a combination of different medications are required to tackle the symptoms. Knowing how men and women differ in their body and brain chemistry can help to create better medication for the future.

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