Bipolar is associated with mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. The course of bipolar disorder differs greatly between men and women. For women, there are more depressive mixed or rapid cycling episodes. This means that any manic episodes they experience aren’t as severe. It also means that their depressive episodes last longer.
What brings on these episodes? Stress. This means that as we’re living through the current pandemic women who have bipolar are likely to be much less stable.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Women With Bipolar Disorder
Unfortunately, one of the most vulnerable populations to be affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic are those who have severe mental illnesses. Many factors disproportionately disadvantage these patients. Some of them include:
- Low household incomes
- Residential instability
- Less provision of physical health care
- Worse lifestyle factors
- Small social networks
Sanctions (e.g. lockdown, no-contact orders, quarantine) add even more stress to this already vulnerable population. It also doesn’t help that women who have bipolar disorder are more likely to be at risk for other factors including:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Weight gain brought about by the medications that are used for treating this disorder
- Thyroid disorder
- Suicidal tendencies
What Studies say About the Bipolar Diagnosis
Studies not only demonstrate that there’s an increased risk of these factors but also that bipolar typically starts at an older age in women than it does in men. While most men will experience their first episode around the age of 22, most women don’t experience theirs until around the age of 27.
Other studies have been conducted that take a look at how the female hormonal cycle has an impact on bipolar disorder and its accompanying symptoms. These studies have discovered that women who already have PMS are more likely to have their bipolar symptoms exacerbated.
Many of these women who had bad PMS were also shown to develop premenstrual dysphoric disorder (something is similar to PMS but much more serious). If they weren’t already diagnosed with bipolar disorder before being diagnosed with the premenstrual dysphoric disorder they’re much more likely to be diagnosed with it soon afterward.
Pregnancy and Bipolar Disorder
Many of the medications that are used to treat bipolar (e.g. Lithium, Depakote) can harm a developing fetus resulting in developmental issues throughout the pregnancy. Unfortunately, there aren’t any safe medications for use so most women have to come off of their medication. While some medications are safer, even these aren’t without risk entirely.
Although most bipolar women do well throughout their pregnancy, postpartum can be a real struggle. This is because there’s a higher susceptibility to postpartum depression and it can be quite severe and unmanageable.
Additionally, you must take into consideration that bipolar is highly inheritable. If just one parent has it, there’s a 15 – 30% likelihood of the child developing it but if both parents have it there’s a 50% risk.
Sleep is a huge predictor of bipolar issues. Oftentimes there’s a shift in sleep patterns before a new episode begins. At this time it’s important to shift the patient’s medication to prevent a full-blown episode. Developing good sleep habits and practicing good sleep hygiene go a long way in managing bipolar.
As a woman who’s been diagnosed with bipolar, it’s also important to take your medication seriously and maintain close contact with a mental health provider. Doing so can help prevent relapse. If you live in St Petersburg, FL, and feel that you need help here you should contact the TMS Advantage – St Petersburg.
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