Bipolar Disorder in Men

About Men and Bipolar Disorder

An estimated 46 million people have bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness (Source: Our World in Data). A person with bipolar disorder can go from feeling very, very high (called mania) to feeling very, very low (depression). With proper treatment, people can control these mood swings and lead fulfilling lives. While the rate of bipolar disorder is the same among BIPOC as it is among other Americans, BIPOC are less likely to receive a diagnosis and, therefore, treatment for this illness.

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder affects 2.8% of adults in the U.S. Of this population, slightly more men (2.9%) then Women (2.8%) are affected. (PSYCOM)
  • Men are just as vulnerable to bipolar disorder as women, both in adolescence and adulthood. (PSYCOM)
  • Bipolar disorder carries an increased risk of suicide. Men have a larger rate of attempted and completed suicde attempts than women. (PSYCOM)
  • Men are more likely to develop substance use disorders if they suffer from symptoms of bipolar (Betterhelp) 

(Sources: Psycom, Better Help)

 Stigma & Bipolar Disorder- Why men often face stigma surrounding mental health:

  • Denial is common
  • Gender norms- possibility that women are more likely to express concern about their depression and seek help, while men tend to shy away from seeking help and opening up about their emotions and feelings due concerns of weakness
  • Gender stereotypes- manic episodes produce extreme feelings of well-being and can result in overconfidence. This may be hard to detect in men since confidence is encouraged in men especially in American culture. This can result in a more difficulty of seeing atypical behavior in men
  • Men are less likely to seek help and treatment 
  • Stereotypes strengthen the Stigma- Men reported that they think society expects them to be emotionally strong and masculine and not show weakness in front of others 
  • There is little awareness, resources, conversations, and support specifically for men about men’s mental health and bipolar 

(Sources: Psycom, Better Help, Forbes )


Why bipolar may affect men differently:

  • Earlier onset of symptoms than women, the typical age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years old. 
  • Men are more likely to experience more frequent and severe symptoms of manic episodes 
  • Men are more likely to show aggression when having manic episodes 
  • Men are more likely to show irritability and anger when depressed than women are 
  • When men experience symptoms they tend to be more severe than women 
  • More common in younger aged males than older ages 

(Sources: Psycom, Better Help )

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe.

Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. Here is good news: bipolar disorder is very treatable, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • Distractibility, can’t concentrate well
  • Little sleep needed
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
  • Poor judgment
  • Spending sprees
  • A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.

  • Poor appetite or eating too much
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Nervousness and worry
  • Major changes in appetite or body weight
  • Loss of interest in and withdrawal from usual activities
  • Feelings of sadness that don’t go away
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Lack of energy; feelings of fatigue, worry, or guilt
  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Inability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
  • Chronic pain or other physical problems that don’t respond to treatment
  • Increased risk-taking behavior, including reckless driving or substance abuse

Bipolar disorder can be treated.

There is hope. Men with bipolar disorder can be helped by treatment. Treatment can include:

  • Medication- Medication can help you to gain control over your symptoms while you work on using other forms of treatment to develop strategies and skills to help you cope with and overcome the disorder. Speak to your doctor about recommendations on what medication may work best. 
  • Therapy- When it comes to Bipolar Disorder, there are three forms that have been found to be the most effective. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Social Rhythm Therapy, and Family-Focused Therapy.
  • Lifestyle management– Practicing good self-care habits can be a critical part of stabilizing your life. This includes maintaining a healthy diet, exercising on a regular basis, getting enough sleep, and finding ways to reduce your stress.
  • Peer support/support groups- Peer-to-peer support groups can provide a place to learn from other men who have gone through what you are going through. Meeting others can help you understand that your illness does not define who you are and you can learn from others who have been there.
  • Communicating with your health professional– Open and ongoing communication with your health provider(s) is essential to the successful treatment of mood disorders. 
  • Don’t delay in reaching out for help– There is a stigma that surrounds mental health and it gets in the way of many people getting the help that they need. However, it’s important if you believe that you have Bipolar Disorder that you don’t delay in getting help

If you think that you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, talk with your primary care physician. However, only a mental health professional can tell if a person has bipolar disorder and properly treat it.

How to help a man who may be struggling 

  • Seek out a private or confidential setting for your discussion. This shows respect and consideration for their privacy and will help him to feel comfortable confiding in you.
  • Start by emphasizing your care and concern for him.
  • Don’t list erratic behaviors or questionable actions as that may antagonize him.
  • Point out that something beyond their control may be responsible for the concerning behaviors.
  • Explain that many mental health conditions can be treated effectively and you will assist in getting him the help he needs.

(Source: Psycom)



Mental Health Resources for Men

Men’s Health Archive– A nonprofit focused on men’s mental health. This company was founded with the intent of creating a social platform for men with mental health issues. They currently offer a forum for males to connect with other men and a separate forum for men to connect with researchers, mental healthcare professionals, educators, and institutions so they can receive expert information. 

Face It Foundation– This foundation aims to help men understand and overcome depression/mental health issues and to reduce the rate of male suicide by providing support groups, one-on-one peer support, outreach events, public education, and training for mental health professionals.

Heads Up Guys– HeadsUpGuys is a resource for supporting men in their fight against depression by providing tips, tools, information about professional services, and stories of success. HeadsUpGuys supports men’s mental health in a positive, inclusive, and mutually supportive way with and for people of all backgrounds and demographics, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

Movember– Movember looks at mental health through a male lens, focusing on prevention, early intervention and health promotion. They’re dedicated towards a world where men take action to be mentally well, and are supported by those around them. They’re Working toward a world where men and boys are comfortable having conversations about the big things in life. 

The Good Men Project– The Good Men Project explores men and manhood in a way that no media company ever has, tackling the issues and questions that are most relevant to men’s lives. They write a vast array of topics including relationships, health & wellness, social justice, fatherhood, family, ethics, gender, politics, sports, climate, education, and much more. Their content reflects the multidimensionality of men — alternately funny and serious, provocative and thoughtful, earnest and light-hearted.

Man Therapy– Working aged men (25-54 years old) account for the largest number of suicide deaths in the U.S. These men are also the least likely to receive any kind of support. They don’t talk about it with their friends, they don’t share with their family, and they don’t seek professional treatment. They are the victims of problematic thinking that says mental health disorders are unmanly signs of weakness. Dr. Rich Mahogany, is dedicated to changing that. Man Therapy is giving men a resource they desperately need. A resource to help them with any problem that life sends their way. 

Resources provided by Mental Health America and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

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