Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder In Seniors

Just like any other mental health disorder, bipolar disorder (BD) is a serious, lifelong condition that is categorized by an instability of emotions, thoughts and behaviors. These intense episodes switch between two extremes – depression and elation. The sufferer usually has some overlapping disorders as well, making BD difficult to diagnose.

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BD episodes can last for days or weeks, and while it is more common amongst teens and young adults, it’s been getting diagnosed more and more within the senior community as well. The symptoms differ and vary with each individual, and the base cause is still not fully known or understood. However, extensive studies and evidence show that a combo of factors are involved, such as traumatic life experiences, genetics, unhealthy diet and lifestyle, toxic and damaging living environment, etc. Whether the undiagnosed and untreated BD is minor or severe, it can be quite detrimental and even devastating to both the patient and their loved ones, along with a major reduction in quality of life.

Thankfully though, once it is diagnosed by a mental health professional, the disorder is very treatable, using either prescribed medications and / or therapy. These treatments can reduce the symptoms and teach the patient coping and management strategies that will significantly improve focus, productivity and overall quality of life. Plus, the sooner treatment begins, the better, as untreated BD has been strongly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.

With that being said, the following are some of the most common and telltale symptoms of senior bipolar disorder that should never be ignored.


Alternating Feelings Of Hopelessness And Excitement

Exhibiting periods of deep depression and despair, which then switches to exuberant happiness, is the hallmark symptom of bipolar disorder. These states of mind and emotions become a cyclic pattern that can last for days or even weeks.

For instance, during the “manic” period of elation, you or your loved one may not get much sleep, along with a bursting and inflated sense of confidence, joy, motivation and energy due to certain good and occurrences that they recently experienced, only to fall back down into the deep dark pit of depression just weeks later for no apparent reason.

Noticeable Changes In Appetite

Another common symptom of BD is the changes in appetite that often occur. During the depressive phase, the individual may not want to eat, and as the BD gets worse over time, it becomes more and more difficult to convince them to eat and consume enough water and nutrients per day. However, during the manic or “euphoric” phase, the individual may want to eat too much, which gradually intensifies and worsens over time. Eventually, if left untreated, these symptoms can result in a host of health problems, such as malnutrition and dehydration, or obesity and diabetes. These symptoms can quickly deteriorate into a medical emergency.

Failing To Follow Through With Plans Or Commitments

Have you noticed a tendency in someone in which they make plans and commitments with others, including major ones, only to forget and get sidetracked time and time again? If so, then they may have BD. This symptom, along with several others, can seriously damage friendships and relationships, to the point of being irreparable. This then brings the person back to those feelings of loneliness and hopelessness previously mentioned.

Engaging In Risky And Impulsive Behavior

Due to all this mental and emotional instability and chaos, seniors with bipolar disorder also tend to engage in an array of reckless activities without stopping to think about their actions beforehand. They may go binge drinking, smoke, drive at high speeds, overspend their available budget, go to stranger’s homes, have unprotected intercourse, etc. All of these actions seriously endanger their health, safety and lives, and of those around them. It can also weaken and even destroy the trust that others have for them.

Neglecting Self - Care And Frequent Changes In Self - Image

As a result of depression caused by BD, a senior may also begin to neglect taking care of themselves and their daily needs, such as showering or bathing, clipping their nails, brushing their hair, brushing their teeth, doing the laundry and getting adequate exercise. They may isolate themselves and avoid communicating with other people as well.

In addition, they may also have a frequently changing self – image and self – esteem that yoyos between positive and negative, depending on which emotional extreme they’re experiencing.

Reoccurring Suicidal Thoughts And Feelings

In more severe cases of depressive BD episodes, seniors often begin to experience thoughts of suicide. They’ll start hinting at it by bringing up death quite often in conversation in some form or another, or they might just clearly say it. In either case, it is an outcry and plea for help, and should never be taken lightly.

Final Thoughts

It’s very hard and debilitating at any age to live with bipolar disorder or any other mental health condition, but there is light and hope for both the sufferers and their loved ones.

If you or someone you know is showing any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s extremely important to get an evaluation by a mental health professional, who will then prescribe the necessary and proper medications, therapy and other forms of treatment that will help pave the way towards a healthier, more balanced life.

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