Bipolar Symptoms In Men: What To Watch For

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by shifts between high and low moods. Anyone can show signs of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, but society may overlook certain segments of the population when it comes to recognizing the symptoms. Men may experience symptoms differently due to biological, social, and personal factors that might not affect others the same way. Understanding how these differences might influence the expression of this disorder can help you learn to identify when it may be time to seek help, whether for yourself or someone you know. 

Do you think you may show signs of bipolar disorder?

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that typically causes someone to experience intense mood swings, usually alternating between extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). Though anyone can have mood swings, those that accompany bipolar disorder are unique in their severity and their impact on daily life. 

A person living with bipolar disorder may experience mania or hypomania (a less severe manic phase) during high points, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, heightened energy levels, and personality changes, among other symptoms. 

In a depressive state, someone with bipolar disorder may experience feelings of intense sadness or numbness, or lose interest in the activities that they usually enjoy. Some people may experience times when they feel relatively “normal” between episodes of mania and depression. Patterns can vary from person to person, and these constant shifts in mood can happen unexpectedly and interrupt normal life functions like sleep, concentration, and behavior.

People experiencing severe episodes of mania or depression may also develop psychotic symptoms, which can include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. In addition to bipolar disorder signs, an individual may exhibit symptoms of comorbid disorders. Many mental health disorders commonly co-occur with bipolar disorder, including anxiety disorders, substance use disorder, and conduct disorders. Bipolar disorder can also impact a person’s physical well-being. Research shows that rates of heart disease are higher in those with bipolar disorder. Additionally, bipolar disorder is associated with a significantly increased risk of suicide

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. Support is available 24/7. 

Types of bipolar disorder

Bipolar I disorder

To be diagnosed with bipolar I, an individual must have experienced at least one manic episode. While depressive episodes may also arise in bipolar I, their presence is not necessary for a diagnosis. Symptoms of mania include feeling euphoric, increased energy levels, racing thoughts, and distractibility. 

Bipolar II disorder 

To be diagnosed with bipolar II, an individual must have experienced both a depressive episode and a hypomanic episode. Hypomania is a milder form of mania, though the symptoms are similar. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, lack of motivation, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities.

Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia) 

People in this group experience recurring depressive and hypomanic symptoms; however, they do not rise to the level of a major depressive episode or hypomanic episode. 

Unspecified bipolar and related disorders 

This diagnosis is for people who experience symptoms of bipolar disorder, but do not fit neatly into one of the three categories.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in men

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, bipolar disorder can affect anyone, occurring at about the same rate across biological sexes

Overall, around 2.8% of the U.S. population lives with some type of bipolar disorder, and roughly 83% of cases are classified as “severe.”

Despite the fact that bipolar disorder may affect nearly all people to the same extent, there are often differences in the way symptoms manifest themselves between people of different backgrounds, which may lead to discrepancies in the number of people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The average age of onset of the disorder typically appears around the age of 25. However, bipolar onset may occur earlier in men. Men and women also differ regarding the likelihood of developing certain comorbid disorders. Men living with bipolar disorder report higher rates than women of conduct and substance use disorders

Prevalence of manic and depressive symptoms

Men are thought to be more likely to experience manic episodes than women and less likely to experience depressive episodes than women. Men also report higher rates of Bipolar I disorder than women, who report more Bipolar II, and relatedly, men reportedly experience hypomania and mixed episodes less than women.

Many men may not be aware of the ways their symptoms may differ from other expressions of bipolar disorder. This can be a significant obstacle to a person’s ability to recognize the potential signs of bipolar disorder and seek help.


Likelihood of seeking care

Research suggests that men are less likely to receive treatment. This is true of all mental health disorders. Choosing to seek help for your mental health disorder can have considerable benefits.

For instance, those who do seek help may be less likely to experience trouble at work and in their relationships. They may be less prone to developing other mental health symptoms and may become less likely to turn to substances to manage their symptoms.

Treatment options

There are multiple ways to treat bipolar disorder. People may need different treatments, depending on their needs, and some people may experience relief after trying a combination of treatments. The key may lie in trying different things until you find what works best for you. Some forms of treatment include:

Prescription medication

There are different types of medication that can work to treat bipolar disorder. These include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medication, among others. 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 manage bipolar disorder more effectively in the long term.

Some may find that they respond well to medication and others may find that they prefer to focus on another form of treatment. Talking with a medical professional is perhaps the best way to determine what type of medication is going to be the best for you. Once you are taking medication, it can be important that you monitor how you are responding both physically and mentally. Communicating about what works and what doesn’t with your doctor or psychiatrist can help you find a solution that fits your needs.


Psychological counseling with a behavioral health professional can help an individual with bipolar disorder receive emotional support, develop coping mechanisms, and address comorbid disorders. When it comes to bipolar disorder, three forms of therapy generally seem to be the most effective. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), social rhythm therapy, and family-focused therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT is a form of therapy that can help you learn the connection between your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. With this form of therapy, a mental health professional can show you how to identify negative thought patterns in your life and understand how they might affect your behavior. When you learn to recognize the thoughts, you can replace them with positive ones.

Social rhythm therapy

Social rhythm therapy is often combined with interpersonal therapy. They work together to address the different areas of your life that may be affected by bipolar disorder. Interpersonal therapy works to address the problems that you may have in your close relationships, while social rhythm therapy focuses on other areas of life that can be impacted by your symptoms. This includes things like diet, exercise, sleep habits, and more. Tackling these goals can help you learn to avoid triggers, set yourself up for success, and begin to heal from some of the challenges that may contribute to your symptoms.

Do you think you may show signs of bipolar disorder?

Family-focused therapy

Family-focused therapy works to provide a person’s entire family with resources and tools for managing bipolar disorder symptoms. Because the disorder can impact others around you as well as yourself, it can be helpful for everyone to understand what you’re experiencing and how to best support you.

Regardless of which type of therapy works best, you may be able to benefit from online therapy options. Working with a therapist online can help save you time, money, and stress, as there’s no need to drive to an in-person office (or even leave your home) to receive the professional care you may need. 

Research suggests that online therapy options can be beneficial for many mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder. In fact, one recent study showed that those experiencing a depressive episode that were treated with CBT over the Internet achieved comparable outcomes to those who were treated in person. Making treatment as convenient as possible may help you stay consistent and motivated as time goes on.


Bipolar disorder can affect anyone, but it often isn’t recognized equally among men. That is why learning to identify potential symptoms and the various ways they may express can be vital – your experience may be different, but that doesn’t mean it is less valid. If you think you or someone you know might be showing signs of bipolar disorder, you may benefit from seeking help from a licensed professional.
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