Bipolar Disorder Statistics

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated May 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Bipolar disorder is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses, both in the United States and the rest of the world. A mental disorder with symptoms that are often debilitating, it is the sixth leading cause of disability globally. Characterized by drastic shifts in mood, bipolar disorder can produce extreme highs and lows, both of which can be difficult to manage and typically require comprehensive care. Its severity and high prevalence make it a notable public health concern; however, statistics also show that bipolar disorder is a very treatable condition. World Bipolar Day on March 30th gives awareness to bipolar disorder and attempts to reduce the stigma that often surrounds the condition. Below are statistics on the number of people who live with bipolar disorder in the United States, along with information that offers insight into how the mental health condition develops and what it may entail.

An overview of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, previously called manic-depressive illness or manic depression, is a mental health disorder characterized by alternating periods of high and low moods, called manic and depressive episodes, respectively. During a manic episode, an individual will normally experience feelings of elation and excitability, along with a high amount of energy and an increased tendency to engage in risky behavior. During a depressive episode, the individual may experience a low mood, a lack of energy, and a loss of interest in things. 

According to some estimates, the median amount of time an episode lasts is 13 weeks, although they can persist for much longer or be as short as a day. According to Harvard Medical School, the first episode of (untreated) mania lasts two to four months, while the first episode of (untreated) depression can persist for eight months. Experiencing four or more episodes within a one-year period is known as rapid cycling. 

While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, genetics and abnormalities in brain structure and function are considered primary contributors to its development. Additional risk factors include experiencing traumatic or stressful events, using recreational drugs, and living with other mental disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders). While it is usually diagnosed in adolescents and young adults, bipolar disorder can also develop in children. There are three different types of bipolar disorder—bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder—which generally have the same symptoms but vary in terms of severity.

Bipolar I disorder

People with this form of bipolar disorder experience periods of mania and may or may not also experience episodes of major depression. For an individual to be diagnosed with bipolar I, a manic episode must have lasted a minimum of one week and consisted of at least three manic symptoms. Symptoms of manic episodes include a reduced need to sleep, racing thoughts, and distractibility. Severe mania can also lead to symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thought. 

Bipolar II disorder

Bipolar II is characterized by periods of both depressive and hypomanic episodes, which are less severe periods of mania. Bipolar depression is marked by periods of low mood, decreased energy, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and lack of interest in activities. Depressive symptoms are more common in bipolar II than bipolar I. 

Cyclothymic disorder

As with the above bipolar disorders, people with this type of bipolar disorder experience mood swings. However, the symptoms of cyclothymia do not meet the criteria for depressive or hypomanic episodes. Though shifts in mood may be less severe, they are typically more frequent. Additionally, people with cyclothymia develop bipolar I and II at higher rates than the general population. 

Each type of bipolar disorder can significantly impact an individual’s social life, occupational functioning, and well-being. Studies show that bipolar disorder is associated with a reduced expected life span (9-20 years shorter than average). However, with an accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment, individuals with bipolar disorder can manage its symptoms and limit its negative effects. 

Bipolar disorder in The United States

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If you live with bipolar disorder, you are not alone

Bipolar disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In this section, you will learn about various bipolar disorder statistics exclusive to the US and the groups that make up its population.

In adults

Each year it is estimated that around 7 million adults in the US experience bipolar disorder. This equates to about 2.8% of the adult population. Approximately 4.4% of all Americans will experience the disorder at some point in their lives. 

The majority of people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are between the ages of 18 and 29, followed by those in the 30-44 range, then those in the 45-59 range. Of adults who live with bipolar disorder, almost 83% experience significant disruption in their physical or mental abilities. Most also find that their lives are disrupted in some way, whether at work, school, or home. 

In adolescents

Although the median age of onset for bipolar disorder is about 25 years old, the condition can appear much earlier in life, and it is common among those aged 13 through 18. Prevalence of the mental illness in the adolescent group is similar to that of the adults, at around 2.9%. 

In men and women

According to the statistics, men and women in the United States experience bipolar disorder at roughly the same rate, 2.9%, and 2.8%, respectively. Even though the figures are close between women and men, bipolar disorder can present differently depending on someone’s sex. For example, men develop the condition earlier in life than women, while women are more likely to experience rapid cycling. Women also have more mixed episodes and more frequent periods of depression than men. 

In families

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Over two-thirds of people in the US will have a relative who has one of the types of bipolar disorder or unipolar depression, which illustrates how common these mental health conditions can be. Bipolar disorder is highly heritable, which means the odds of developing it increases when one or both parents have it. If you have one parent with bipolar disorder, the risk of inheriting and developing it later in life is approximately 15-30%. If both parents have it, it increases to 50-75%. 

In the rest of the world

Bipolar disorder isn’t just a concern in the United States. As you read on, you’ll learn that bipolar disorder affects people in countries all over the world.

Bipolar disorder around the world

As of 2017, it was estimated that about 0.6% of the entire world population (or 46 million people) lives with bipolar disorder. However, the true prevalence may actually be much higher given the likely high number of undiagnosed cases in areas of the world with a lack of mental health resources or a stigma attached to mental illness. Some estimates show that up to half of individuals who live with bipolar disorder will go untreated.  

With regard to statistics in specific countries, approximately 568,000 people in Australia, 1.3 million in the United Kingdom, 390,000 in Canada, 688,000 in Iran, and nearly a million in Germany have bipolar disorder. The two most populous nations, India and China, are believed to have up to 15 million people with bipolar disorder. 

Comorbidity with other types of mental illness

Along with the symptoms that come with this mental health condition, there are several other mental and physical health concerns that often accompany bipolar disorder. One of the main ones is the risk of substance use, as bipolar and substance use disorders have high comorbidity. According to SAMHSA, around 30-50% of people who live with bipolar disorder will also experience substance use disorder at some point.

Bipolar disorder is also associated with other chronic physical illnesses. People who have the condition are three times more prone to developing diabetes at some point, and 35% of patients live with obesity. Bipolar disorder also increases the chances of experiencing cardiovascular disease or stroke. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many people with bipolar disorder may also experience other mental health challenges, including anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, and other mood disorders. Treatment options for combined disorders may vary slightly and should be planned and monitored by a mental health professional. 

Mental health care statistics

Despite the severity of bipolar disorder and the risks discussed in the previous section, it is a highly treatable condition. With proper treatment, manic and depressive symptoms can be managed, and the cognitive and emotional effects of the disorder can be limited. Mental health treatment plans for bipolar disorder typically consist of medication, such as mood stabilizers, and psychotherapy. Success rates for lithium, a commonly utilized mood stabilizer, can range from 40% to 85%, and approximately 90% of patients have reported that they have been satisfied with the medications that they’ve been prescribed. Other prescriptions that may be used to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder are antidepressants and antipsychotics.


Additionally, people with a bipolar disorder diagnosis who choose to participate in psychotherapy have shown positive results, particularly when combining it with medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely accepted type of psychotherapy that can be used for addressing various mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. Studies have shown that it can reduce depressive symptoms by up to 7% and can decrease the risk of relapsing by around 60%. According to the World Health Organization, other treatments may include stress-management techniques and social skills interventions. When patients are satisfied with their treatment, it can help them cope more effectively with bipolar disorder, and it may decrease the chances that they will experience further episodes.

Support groups are another useful tool that those living with bipolar disorder can use, allowing you to connect with, and receive guidance from, other people who are living with the disorder. Attending support group meetings has been shown to increase the likelihood that an individual will follow through with treatment by around 86%. 
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If you live with bipolar disorder, you are not alone

Online therapy with BetterHelp

If you are one of the millions of people in the US (and beyond) who experience bipolar disorder, know that help is available. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist from home. Online therapy is available, allowing you to participate through video calls, voice calls, or in-app messaging. You can also contact your therapist outside of sessions if you have a question or want to clarify a point made during therapy. A qualified mental health professional can provide you with thorough care as you manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. 

The efficacy of online therapy

There is an increasingly large amount of evidence that shows that online therapy can be a useful method for treating bipolar disorder. A broad-based review of 15 articles concluded that online therapy, including smartphone-based interventions, can help individuals manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. Researchers specifically found online therapy helpful when developing and acting on a treatment plan, fostering hopefulness, and educating participants. 

Takeaway

Bipolar disorder statistics show that many people live with this complex mental health condition, but awareness can help when it comes to providing treatment. While bipolar disorder’s effects are serious, they can be managed with the right support. If you live with bipolar disorder or want to address related challenges, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist through BetterHelp and becoming one of the thousands of people who have received specialized mental health care through the platform. 

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