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What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Women?

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Updated May 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Two sides of mania - elation and anger

Two sides of mania - elation and fury.

Altrendo Images / Getty Images
Anguish in depression

A woman in the grip of bipolar depression clutches her head in anguish.

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Women with bipolar disorder can experience mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes just as men do. In this article, we'll take a look at how many common bipolar symptoms affect women.

Women's symptoms during mania and hypomania:

  • Getting all dressed up even if she has no special placed to go. A woman who normally wears business casual clothing to the office may start wearing short skirts, sporting scarves (and tossing them around), dressing in bright colors, or choosing outfits that have are more appropriate for a night club or a special event than an office.
     
  • Being much more talkative than usual, speaking louder, laughing more (sometimes when laughter isn't appropriate), paying no attention to interruptions and dominating a conversation, or speaking in a way that people might call "motor mouth" or even "yammering." She might jump from topic to topic with only the barest connection between them (see Flight of Ideas). She may talk so fast that it's difficult to understand her (see Pressured Speech).
     
  • Needing very little sleep while being filled with energy the next day. She might decide to paint the living room at 3 a.m. to burn off her excess energy.
     
  • She can't sit or stand still for any length of time. Sitting, she might fidget, tap her toes or change position frequently. Though normally she can stand quietly in a group conversation, during mania or hypomania she might move from place to place or pace around. (See Psychomotor Agitation.)
     
  • During mania but not hypomania, she may see or hear things that aren't there. Voices from nowhere might speak to her; non-existent people or animals might appear to her. (See Hallucinations.)
     
  • Also during mania, but not hypomania, she may come to believe things that just aren't true. How much of a problem this is depends on what the false belief is and how it's expressed. For example, she might believe a celebrity is in love with her and begin sending him letters daily, posting so-called love letters from him online, making angry or false statements about his wife or girlfriend, etc. (See Delusions).

Women's symptoms during bipolar depression:

  • A woman might be unable to stop crying even though there might not be any specific to cry about. "I just feel so sad!" she might say.
     
  • She may have absolutely no energy or even not want to get out of bed. As a result, laundry doesn't get done, her mail isn't opened, the kitchen gets piled high with dirty dishes, empty drink cans and bottles. She might miss appointments or get in trouble for calling in sick to work too much.
     
  • She could have a terrible time falling to sleep or staying asleep - or she could sleep way too much, even 20 hours a day. (See Insomnia and Hypersomnia.)
     
  • She might normally love to go shopping - and may shop too much and spend too much during mania and hypomania - but now, in depression, it doesn't interest her at all. This is just one example of a symptom called anhedonia.
     
  • She could start obsessing about her appearance in a negative way - feeling that she's ugly, too fat, too thin, etc. In addition, her weight and appetite may change, going up or down.
     
  • Even if she is able to work, perform chores, attend to responsibilities, she may have a great deal of difficulty focusing, remembering or organizing her thoughts. Making decisions can be torturous.
     
  • Body aches are common. In fact, researchers are learning a great deal lately about the biological relationship between pain and depression.
     
  • The hallucinations and delusions mentioned above that can occur during mania may also occur during depression.

Mixed Episodes

In a mixed episode, a woman will have symptoms that combine those of mania or hypomania and depression. In mixed mania or hypomania, there are fewer depressive symptoms than manic or hypomanic. In mixed depression, depressive symptoms dominate.
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  5. Gender Issues
  6. What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Women?

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