Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in Men

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What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition known to occur in episodes marked by extreme shifts in mood and energy. More than 2% of the world’s population lives with this disorder.

While men and women are equally affected by bipolar disorder, there are specific gender differences in how the condition manifests.

This article will examine the types of bipolar disorder and possible causes of this condition. It will look into the unique ways this disorder is presented in men, plus possible ways to manage the condition.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

When a person lives with bipolar disorder, they will experience distinct changes to their mood, energy, and activity levels at different points.

Bipolar I Disorder

A person with this type of bipolar disorder will usually experience manic episodes that last days at a time. Commonly, when manic episodes last at least seven days—especially when these events take over a majority of each day—it can signal bipolar I disorder.

This condition may also present in cases where manic episodes are so severe, that professional medical care is required. 

To meet the criteria for bipolar I disorder, a person must also experience episodes of depression that last at least two weeks.

Bipolar I disorder can also produce mixed episodes. Here, a person may experience both manic and depressive episodes at the same time when living with the condition.

Bipolar II Disorder

This condition involves depressive episodes that last at least two weeks and periods of mood elevation that last at least four days. The periods of mood elevation in bipolar II disorder (also called hypomania or hypomanic episodes) are not as severe as the symptoms of mania in bipolar I disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Cyclothymia is a rare mood disorder in which individuals present with emotional highs and lows. Typically, its symptoms aren't as severe as the symptoms of bipolar I disorder. However, this diagnosis—which is a bipolar spectrum disorder—is characterized by a long duration of symptoms.

In order to be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, a person must have experienced hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms over a two-year period. But both the hypomanic and depressive episodes in cyclothymic disorder do not meet the full DSM-5 criteria for hypomania or major depressive disorder.

Young men may experience bipolar disorder early in their lives. This is because of hormonal changes that occur in puberty. The sudden increase in hormonal concentrations can cause raise the risk of developing this disorder. 

There are however very limited studies considering a possible link between these developments.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder isn’t caused by any specific factors. However, a combination of different circumstances can cause the disorder to emerge.


Genetic factors may play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. A person that lives with this condition is likely to have inherited it from a family member. Commonly, when a person has a parent or sibling living with bipolar episodes, they have a higher chance of developing the disorder.

There isn’t any single gene linked to this disorder; however, a combination of genes may be responsible.

Brain Anatomy

Specific parts of the brain like the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala regulate emotions. They also manage responses to the external environment. When these structures are modified away from their normal structure, this can impact mood.

Neurotransmitter Dysregulation

A disruption in neurotransmitters has been linked to bipolar disorder. When dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels or operations are compromised, this may contribute to bipolar disorder.

Immune System

Key components of the immune system are also linked to the severity of this disorder. They include cytokines and interleukins.

Prenatal Factors

Fetal infections may be associated with the emergence of bipolar disorder. Exposure to these infections can lead to changes in dopamine, leading to higher production. Increased dopamine levels are suggested to produce manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder. These infections can also impact immune system operations.

Postnatal Factors

Childhood abuse or maltreatment may also contribute to bipolar disorder. In addition to other mental illnesses, emotional neglect and abuse in particular can cause the disorder to emerge.

Substance Abuse

Bipolar episodes often exist in the company of misused substances. There is an estimated 61% lifetime prevalence of substance abuse among those living with bipolar I disorder and 48% prevalence in those with bipolar II.

People that routinely use opioids, alcohol, or cocaine may be at a higher risk of bipolar disorder. There are also suggestions that cannabis may impact the development of the disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Men

A person with bipolar disorder may experience unique symptoms of the condition. Men may show different symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Earlier Onset

Research has shown that men are more likely to experience bipolar symptoms at an earlier age than women. One study found that men experienced this disorder around three years before women did. 

Women are also more likely to show symptoms of bipolar disorder around the age of 50, while men do so earlier.

Depression and Aggression

Depression is a common symptom of bipolar disorder. However, women are more likely than men to experience periods of sadness associated with the disorder.

Moreover, one study notes that aggression may be more prevalent in men with bipolar disorder if they are also dealing with a substance use disorder.

Appetite Changes

One study that looked at bipolar disorder symptoms in men and women found that men revealed lower rates in appetite changes than women.

Fluctuating Energy Levels

At different times, a person with bipolar disorder can feel energized to take on several projects at once. They may feel jumpy or wired, and can even appear to feel important, highly talented, or powerful.

While mania can be seen in both men and women, one study indicated that more men than women reported manic symptoms.

It's not that women don't experience manic symptoms, but that mania in men tends to manifest differently (such as with more aggression, impulsivity, and violence).

Other times, the near opposite of these feelings appears. Depressive periods can come with an inability to do even the simplest task like getting out of bed. A person with this disorder may have trouble concentrating, and can experience feelings of worthlessness or a desire to commit suicide.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Treatment is possible for any one living with bipolar disorder. Medication, psychotherapy, and other measures are available.

  • Medication: Mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs, plus treatments that target sleep and anxiety can manage symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis, plus advice on suitable medication.
  • Psychotherapy: Otherwise known as talk therapy—this treatment requires the support of a mental health professional. Together, patients and experts can navigate the challenging emotions, thoughts, and behaviors caused by bipolar disorder. 
  • Other Treatments: Brain stimulation through electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation can produce positive effects on bipolar disorder. This is especially true in cases of severe episodes but may also apply to other subtypes of bipolar symptoms.

Coping With Bipolar Disorder

Managing bipolar disorder requires patience and the right treatment plan. This means working with and taking the advice of healthcare professionals.

In addition to expert recommendations, men owe themselves a duty of care when managing bipolar disorder. This means taking prescribed medications and being open about symptoms or changes with the healthcare team.

It is also useful to attend support groups and therapy. These measures provide the right support for navigating life with bipolar disorder. Habits that boost mental health and wellness like exercise, meditation, and proper rest can be useful when living with this disorder.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to be managed alone. To overcome this disease, the care of loved ones can go a long way.

A Word From Verywell

Men may experience the ups and downs of bipolar disorder earlier than women. In addition, men with this disorder can appear more aggressive or angry than is commonly found in women.

However, despite different appearances, bipolar disorder is a treatable condition. Anyone suspecting that they routinely display signs of this condition should visit a healthcare professional for their expert opinion.  

13 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Plumptre
Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences.