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 Marcia Purse

Age at Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

By September 3, 2009

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I’ve been doing some reading this evening regarding the age of onset for those diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A team comprised of researchers from several different countries, reviewed the Onset-Age of Bipolar Disorders at Six International Sites.

They found the median age of onset – the age found in the middle of the set of all ages – was 25.2 years old. Those with bipolar I disorder tended to be diagnosed earlier than those with bipolar II disorder and men were diagnosed younger than women. 25% of those in the study were diagnosed on or before age 20; only 2.81% were diagnosed at age 13 or younger. What I found particularly interesting was the incredible range for the age of diagnosis. There were children as young as 10, but also seniors in their 80's.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder? ~Kimberly

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September 4, 2009 at 8:41 am
(1) Barb Cassiday says:

I was diagnosed at age 21, and 2 of my children were diagnosed at ages 10 & 11.

September 4, 2009 at 9:16 am
(2) Barb says:

I was diagnosed age 43.After at least 30 yrs of hell and wrong diagnosis, 3 children age 21,17 and 11.

September 4, 2009 at 11:17 am
(3) Steve says:

I have been a counselor for 40 years dealing with children and adults. My concern is that many “anxiety” problems have been missed or passed over and not addressed for some reason. Many children are especially at risk since little is known about them and medications for children are limited. It is a terrible condition and individuals (children and adults) suffer for years before the truth is known. Sometimes that happens because individuals are afraid to tell about their symptoms thinking people will label them “crazy” since that is how they feel. So they choose not to talk about it. If you have symptoms, find someone who will listen to you and get help as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. It will only get worse.

September 4, 2009 at 11:18 am
(4) Andy says:

I was diagnosed at age 50, after 30 years of suffering…

September 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm
(5) Alex says:

I was diagnosed at 39. I have been taking psychotropic medications since the age of 16 but began having mental health issues at 13. I was treated for Depression and Anxiety. I had my first “break-down” at 16; and my first manic episode at 25, whereby I averaged 2 hours of sleep nights for two weeks. It took years before someone diagnosed me with Bipolar I. I now take a cocktail of Lithium, Lamictal Abilify, Effexor, Pamelor and Xanax, which in combination are helpful. But I still go through periods of significant difficulty. I have been t

September 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm
(6) sabrina says:

my daughter now 11 was diginosed at age 7.

September 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm
(7) Princess says:

I was diagnosed at 35 and I’m now 36. I wish I would’ve reached out sooner, I’ve been struggling since I was 12…

September 4, 2009 at 4:52 pm
(8) Paula says:

Though I had depression my whole life, I was diagnosed with depression in 1994. It wasn’t until last year, 2008, when I was 51 years old, that I was diagnosed with Bipolar I.

September 4, 2009 at 7:56 pm
(9) rose says:

I was diagnosised at the of 42 and am now 52. I absolutely hate this illness! It seems to be getting worse from my view point. I’ve had the worse year I’ve had since be coming ill. rose

September 4, 2009 at 9:57 pm
(10) laura says:

I had my first suicide attempt at age nine and was diagnosed with bipolar I at age 16. The mother of one of my friends didn’t start having mood difficulties till menopause but after onset, it became obvious very quickly that she had rapid cycling bipolar I. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed before modern psychotropic drugs became available to patients who had bipolar disorder. Lithium helped for a while but her episodes escalated in both frequency and severity so she started ECT. That helped for a while but she still had to stay on nardil (an MAOI) between treatments. Her treatments became almost daily by the end when she was admitted to the hospital for the final time. I don’t think her case is typical though I’m sure it’s not exactly rare either. They told her that the cause of the bipolar disorder was related to hormones but they didn’t give her any kind of hormone treatments.

For me, I take a lot of meds and it seems like every time I go to the pdoc he changes something, either the dose or adding a new medication or withdrawing from another. Sometimes a med will work for a while and then I’ll have to get off it but in a few months or years if it’s tried again it works. Go figure.

September 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm
(11) Amy says:

My 29 yr old son was diagnosed at a few months shy of his 17th b’day with Bipolar II. I always felt that there was soemtthing “wrong” with him, even when he was an infant. He started being seen by a psychiatrist at 9 and a 1/2.I have not been sure that is the correct diagnosis for a couple of years now. He is Dual/Diagnosis. I would love to learn the name of a psychiatrist here in Columbia, SC who believes in using nutritional supplements as a part of his/her practice. Please let me know if you know of any one.

September 4, 2009 at 11:26 pm
(12) Lost Cause says:

Symptoms appeared in my teens. Diagnosed at age 31.

September 5, 2009 at 1:28 am
(13) Paddy says:

When I was a toddler I threw crying fits for no reason and a doc had my mom chart them and I ran the cycle of the moon. I spent my entire childhood miserable and moody. I was diagnosed with depression when I had my first suicidal thoughts at age 28. I wasn’t diagnosed as bipolar II until I was 41. I’m now 48. This past year has been the best year ever in my entire life. I was acctually able to feel happy without being edgy at the same time. My meds are good right now.

September 5, 2009 at 9:27 am
(14) sheepgirl says:

I showed my first symptoms (depression) at 20. I was properly diagnosed at 34. It’s great to have the right diagnosis and be on the right meds. I haven’t felt this well for a long time.

September 5, 2009 at 7:43 pm
(15) Keziah says:

I was diagnosed with BPD “officially” at the age of 25 after having seen psychiatrists on and off since I was 15. But, looking at my childhood and researching the symptoms along with witnessing one of my 10-year-old twin boys being currently treated for BPD, I would say I probably started showing symptoms at about age 7-8.

September 5, 2009 at 11:45 pm
(16) Judith DiGennaro says:

I wasn’t properly diagnosed until 1998, but I am quite sure, based on the symptoms, that I have been bipolar since my early childhood. My therapist says it is just as well since it was a largely unknown illness at that time (I am 62) and heaven knows what they would have done to me. Fortunately I was mild enough for many years to keep from killing myself (or someone else)and to benefit from the hypomania. I think I also have an utterly exhausted guardian angel.

September 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm
(17) muddle.thru says:

i was diagnosed in ’93 at age 32. or close to then, anyway. my father was very clearly bipolar, but was only diagnosed as depressive and that was at age 58. his father, also very clearly bipolar according to all we know of his behavior, may or may not have been diagnosed at all (deserted his family). my father’s maternal grandmother, who we also strongly believe to have been bipolar, was likely never diagnosed; she died in the 1950s at a very old age. i suppose i’m comparatively more fortunate to have been diagnosed when i was, then. afterward, though, i experienced ten years of psychiatric mismanagement (doctor competence, doctor demeanor, trial-and-error medications) before i happened upon my current doctor of six years. he’s tender-hearted, he listens well and speaks thoughtfully, and exceptionally knowledgeable; these traits have given him the wisdom to tune my medications to have the best results in giving me a more peaceful existence. sometimes we try a small change, hoping for even better results. some of the changes work and some don’t, but he’s vigilant over my mental health care. thank God for him.

September 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm
(18) Riannon says:

I was diagnosed at seventeen. My symptoms started at four.

September 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm
(19) Marcy Rubin says:

Seems to me from the postings so far the more we learn the sooner the diagnosis. I also know I was showing signs since age 6 when I walked into my parents room in the middle of the night and told them I was different from everyone else.

They took me to a child psychologist. I remember being in a room with toys and milk and cookies. It was soon after that visit the warning sign became more and more clear. It got to the point I wasn’t allow in the house unless I was in therapy. Yet no medications and no diagnosis came of it.

It wasn’t until my second suicide attempt that a doctor put it all together and finally diagnosed the Bipolar. At this point I had already been to hell and back taking my family and friends with me. That was in my 30′s. I’m now in my 40′s.

Today much more information about bipolar is available. We continue to develope new medications and found meds that previously didn’t work are now effective in combinations. We know for some people no medication and a more natural / hollolistic aproach helps just fine.

They have created CBT & DBT, learned the affect of exercise and diet, Have broken down levels of bipolar, located an area of the brain that controls these emotions, discovered trama can cause an onset of bipolar and the list goes on.

Did it take too long to diagnose me, probably. Do I look back at the life i could have had, No. I am the person I am today regardless of my bipolar. You have the option to let the illness control you or get help and learn how to control the illness. I realize it isn’t quite this simple but it is possible.

I live by the rule, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE HOPE YOU ARE ALWAYS IN MOTION and one step closer to recovery.

September 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm
(20) CB says:

I was diagnosed with BiPolar II at age 18. I was first diagnosed with “Chronic” Depression at age 17, but started seeing a psychologist at 8 or 9 because I began having panic attacks. I now release as a child I was OCD. My anxiety was terrible and still is from time to time. I have been on some sort of medication for the past 5 yrs, but abruptly stopped taking my medication about a month ago due to problems with my doctor.

The past few years I was treated for Bipolar I. I’m not really sure what’s wrong with me, but I am doing more now without medication than I ever was on it..

September 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm
(21) Dee says:

My mother said after age 15 months I never took a nap; always whrling around and running off. Other kids could tell I was “different”, I felt it too.
thought it was because I’m very intelligent[154]; but I think it was BP.
I’ve been up and down, mostly slightly up. Used it to accomplish 3-4 things at once pretty well; but would then overstretch myself and then crash and get really mean and nasty for a time. My poor girls.
I was misdiagnosed 6-7 times by different drs over 25-30 years; of course, I never went when I was feeling “good”, only when I had crashed. They all prescribe antidepressants… omg, what a mess.

I now realize my episodes came with the seasons; esp the time change! Totally squirreled me up each spring especially.
Finally diagnosed correctly at 55, after years of periods of hypomania and mishandling of a lifetime of money, although I did do well considering I raised two children by myself.
I did have suicidal ideation since puberty – never knew that wasnt “normal” – but like i’ve told my kids, I always chose life!
I never gave up trying to find out what was “going on” with me.
So, you who are reading this, dont give up; keep trying, life is worth it. Enjoy what you can for that day – a sunrise, a sunset, a flower, a baby’s smile.

September 10, 2009 at 5:59 am
(22) Victoria says:

My daughter turns 3 this month and was diagnosed 3 weeks ago. There is family history of bipolar disorder(diagnosed after 30 or never truly diagnosed) and alcoholism. Wow is it a struggle to even get the medical community to accept the diagnosis, and finding suitable medication is even harder!

September 13, 2009 at 9:53 am
(23) Katy says:

I was officially diagnosed at 22, but my doctor says he is willing to bet I was showing symptoms as early as 12.

September 14, 2009 at 11:50 pm
(24) 5150kat says:

I was diagnosed at age 41, after more than 30 years of struggling with depression, substance abuse, relationship problems, career and job problems and more. I am bipolar 1/mixed and I now receive monthly ECT treatments after the meds either didn’t work or gave me untolerable side effects. I still struggle, I am 44 and on SSDI after having a major depressive episode lasting over nine months. This illness is not easy, not just for those of us who have it, but on our loved ones too.

September 15, 2009 at 7:52 pm
(25) SLC says:

I was diagnosed Bipolar I at age 37, but probably had the disorder most of my life. I had terrible “fits” of rage as an adolescent, which followed through my late teens to early twenties. Most of my accomplishments can be attributed to Bipolar, which include becoming an Officer and a rated Army Aviator, a bachelor’s degree in three years, a Master’s degree in 7 trimesters – while working full-time for a Fortune 35 company. I was working for this Fortune 35 company when diagnosed, and then I was conveniently “down-sized”. I sued them and got a small settlement. After being diagnosed, I tried every medication combination known to man, and I currently take Abilify and Lithium. It is still rocky, over the past 5 years I have been hospitalized twice for mania, and have averted a few other hospitalizations. I am currently working toward my third degree in the attempt to find better employment in this wonderful economy.

September 18, 2009 at 10:58 am
(26) Mandy says:

I was diagnosed at the age of 17. They said it was just depression at 15.

September 20, 2009 at 11:03 am
(27) guggy says:

I had my first psychotic episode at 27, I was diagnosed one year later.

September 21, 2009 at 9:59 am
(28) Denny says:

I was diagnosed with bipolar at 40 after a misdiagnosis of depression. The doctor discounted talk therapy and only spent enough time to write a prescription. The antidepressant sent my mania rocketing and when my wife became desperate enough to write a letter to him, he finally started to ask questions. I changed doctors and have been doing well for the past 6 years. I realize now that I had periods of depression and mania my whole life.

March 13, 2010 at 12:04 am
(29) Bobby says:

Diagnosed with unipolar depression at age 45 in ’97.
Treated with Zoloft & “switched” into mania after which was diagnosed as bipolar. Life has been living hell ever since. Lost several businesses, house, friends, relationships, etc………Finally stopped the med merry go round & am doing better with major exception of sleep disturbance, which is now being addressed by sleep specialist. Allegedly have sleep apnea. We’ll see. Stay tuned.
ps. Exercise & nutrient supplements work in some cases. See truehope.com though read with healthy dose of skepticism. :)

October 17, 2010 at 11:48 am
(30) Robin says:

It does get better.

October 27, 2010 at 9:59 pm
(31) Terry says:

No history of any anxiety, hypomania, or depression until age 32. Psychotic episode then, diagnosed with Bipolar I in the psych hospital, depression followed, despite meds. Now on Wellbutrin and doing fine. Bipolar diagnosis now questioned by my psychiatrist and me.

January 19, 2011 at 11:38 am
(32) marie says:

my sister, 75, just got diagnosed with bi-polar. i was truly surprised. i thought it was something you are born with. i’m trying to find out as much information i can on this disease to help understand my sister. all information i can get i would be grateful. m.

January 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm
(33) Tom says:

I got diagnosed officially at age 47 though at 46 I suspected it when I really noticed my mood changed as people talked to me. Even before therapy I realized my manic episode was right after I turned 18 and had undiagnosed problems for 30 years. So now I must forget my past, not worry about the future and live for today.

March 23, 2011 at 12:01 am
(34) Kelly says:

I’m now 42, and in 2007 at age 39 I was diagnosed with depression, which had followed a 3 month “high”. After being put on an SSRI for the depression, my mood started climbing and eventually I displayed all the classic symptoms of mania. I did not know SSRI’s are dangerous for a possibly bipolar person! My therapist and doctor did not believe it was possible for an older person to start showing signs of bipolar, so they did not diagnose me with it. A few erratic months later I landed in the hospital for a suicide attempt, where the doctor diagnosed me with bipolar I disorder. I feel so lucky to be alive and to finally know there’s a name for what I’ve been living with for most my life. Lithium gave me my life back. For the record I believe a miscarriage and surgery to remove one fallopian tube triggered my 1st manic episode. Both mother and grandmother had mental illness.

April 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm
(35) Lura says:

My mother was diagnosed when she was around 30. My middle brother was diagnosed when he was 25. Then, I was diagnosed at 32. My eldest brother had been recently diagnosed two years ago at the age of 42.

We’ve learned as a family psychosis can happen at any age… my family thought my eldest brother and myself were “safe” because of the general statistics state the onset is typically in peoples mid-twenties.

September 4, 2011 at 10:13 am
(36) Kate says:

I was diagnosed soon after I turned eight, but can remember having symptoms (including hallucinations) since around age four. Its interesting to me that this is so rare…

February 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm
(37) laney says:

My brother 69 yrs old has just been diagnosed as Bipolar 1. He has suffered since his 20′s, been given valium and antidepressants for ever but never treated for bi-polar.
. His first maic episode just after coming off valium. He has not stabilized after 4 days in hospital. I am so worried.

April 20, 2012 at 2:41 am
(38) Amanda says:

I was diagnosed just this week (age 23) with Bipolar II, after being told for the past four years that I was just experiencing depression….then an anxiety disorder. But, I remember having symptoms since I was about eight years old. It was hard to find anyone in the medical community that was willing to actually sit down and listen rather than push a prescription within the first few minutes. (Getting my family to take the diagnosis serious has been an even bigger struggle.) I am almost certain my recently deceased father was also bipolar, and that one of my four siblings is too.

May 29, 2012 at 4:25 am
(39) Kaye says:

I had bouts of depression on and off since I was 17 but no signs of mania until I was 43. When I was 45 and began engaging in so many stress related symptoms that my body began to shut down and an anxiety disorder took over I went to see a psychiatrist. We poured over every detail and he explained that there are a few of us who do not fully develop the bi-polar until we are in our 40′s or even older. I have a family history, the depression was already there and the stress I was under gave me the “push” the illness needed. I’m doing “ok” but I can no longer work outside the home. I went through a hypo-manic 10 months and everyone was so happy after my being depressed that no one noticed until my boundaries became a little “off.” Then I noticed I began having sexual thoughts about men I didn’t know and I started freaking out. I have a pretty good marriage. My therapist never knew me w/o my being hypo-manic so she was a bit shocked. I was pretty honest with my husband b/c I was scared. We got through it. Sadly, my kindness/friendliness was taken advantage of and that turned to a mess. Nothing bad was done on my part but I guess being a friendly sober female out walking and chatting with someone for a few minutes a couple times a week makes you a whore or just him feeling scorned? Anyway, things are different since I became bipolar. I am different. I tolerate certain things differently. Some of my friends don’t like my changes. My family has finally figured out how hard I try. I’m blessed that I have a “for better or worse” husband.

September 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm
(40) Lost and Confused says:

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 3. My father has bipolar disorder. I’ve struggled my whole life with this…the medications, racing thoughts, therapy, pyscologists…I currently don’t take medications…I still struggle with the ups and downs but I can’t recognize when I’m going thru the episodes…I sometimes think I’ve been miss diagnosed and tht maybe Wat I’m feeling is normal…but I do see where I have a Problem with my anger and racing thoughts…people always tell me I’m crazy for saying I was diagnosed when I was 3 but it’s true…I think I should knw how long these doctors have been shoving pills down my throat hoping to cure me…just saying I understand Victoria…I went thru the same thing…can’t say it gets better either…but I hope things are better for ur daughter than how it’s been for me…I’m 21 now and i don’t take any medications…I guess u could consider this a never ending roller coaster ride…and what a ride ur in for…my mother doesn’t find it easy to deal with me…but i still love her

October 8, 2012 at 11:48 am
(41) Becca says:

I was 11, almost 12 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

November 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm
(42) Bibiana says:

I was diagnosed at 47 years old. I had always had mood swings, but the reason I didn’t seek help sooner was because I WASN’T unhappy 24/7.I cannot say that my life before diagnosis had nothing good about it. However, my life after diagnosis is so much happier.

December 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm
(43) JAEJ PRESTON says:


January 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm
(44) Valerie says:

I think one of the reasons the ages differ so much is because of misdiagnosis. My son is almost 8 and for awhile we ha thought he had adhd. But while watching DR. Phil he gave a list of bipolar disorder symptoms and every single one matched. While not all of adhd symptoms match. Just that he can’t concentrate at school and he gets hyper. But I know for a fact that sugar is the culprit for the hyper part. So im going to find a more competent dr. And I might need to go through 5 to find someone who doesn’t just throw an adhd diagnosis at a young child. So the age may go lower than 10. My husband’s sister was diagnosed at 14. And his uncle at an older age in his 30s i think. But I’m not thinking that the age has anything to do with it. It’s more finding the right Dr.

January 19, 2013 at 1:09 am
(45) Lauren says:

I first experienced depression and began self harming at 11. My first hypomanic episode was probably around 14. I was diagnosed at 17 but was first diagnosed with depression at 15 although there was a question over whether I was actually really bipolar. In hospital the doctors were able to get a clearer picture and thus reach the current diagnosis. After a cocktail of medications I am now reasonably stable on just one; lithium.

February 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm
(46) Jim r says:

This has made things easier for me. Diagnosed last week at the age of 41 with BP 2. Happy to have a diagnosis but feel so cheated. Looking back my first manic episode (didn’t know what what BP is, never heard of it) was probably age 17, first major depressive episode lob aged 16.

February 20, 2013 at 8:07 am
(47) Shelbey says:

I was put on medication at age 14 and began showing signs at age 7 but my psychiatrist won’t diagnose me until I’m around 18.

April 17, 2013 at 11:59 pm
(48) Jim says:

I was diagnosed at age 41. Looking back my bipolar is the reasons for all of my success but at the same time it is the reason for all my downfalls ….It is a double edge blade..WOW!! I am now balanced trying to unlearn my bad traits for years of being bipolar..

May 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm
(49) Don says:

At 35 now, and have had symptoms of mental illness since an age of 10. After a Suicide attempt last year, I was in 3 different hospitals and spent 3 months “institutionalized”. So many times dr’s would comment that maybe I was bipolar. I went through ect treatment to try and get back to my daughters. I am almost a year later and just came down from a 4 month manic episode. My therapist caught it and sent me right over to the psychiatrist. She took me off cymbalta 90mg and replaced it with seroquel. My new cocktail is seroquel, lamictal and adderol. The pamphlet with the seroquel said a lot about bipolar depression and I just sobbed. It has totally ruined my life, my marriage, and I can see that my kids suffer from mental illness. I haven’t been able to stop sobbing since I realized omg this is me.

June 6, 2013 at 12:37 am
(50) gwendolyn says:

i have recently split from a bipolar boyfreind. he was diagnosed in his 50s.i hated it that he just refused to speak to or email me when he was depressive, even if we had things planned. when he was manic he talked at rather than to me, was sexually demanding and selfish. i told him he was not well enough to be in a relationship. i always tried to be supportive and understanding, but it was too hard. he has a distorted view of his own independence and refuses help. age is not the issue; good management and kind support is.

November 13, 2013 at 12:44 am
(51) Juanietta says:

Diagnosed at 48 after 20 years of ups and downs.

January 8, 2014 at 10:32 pm
(52) Doug says:

I was diagnosed with BiPolar I at 49. Before that I never had a manic episode.

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