Are Suicide Rates Higher For People With Bipolar Disorder? (2023)

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition affecting about 2.8% of U.S. adults. Its main symptoms are mood shifts, which include episodes of mania and depression.

People who live with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of suicide compared to the general population. Research suggests up to 20% of people with bipolar disorder, especially when untreated, die by suicide. A larger percentage, around 20% to 60%, attempt suicide at least once during their life.

Bipolar disorder can be debilitating, but the condition can be managed. Emotional support, medication, and therapy can help improve quality of life, lessen symptoms, and reduce the risk of suicide.

Read on to learn more about the connection between bipolar disorder and suicide, how to recognize signs of a mental health crisis, and what steps can be taken toward prevention.

Help is available

If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

While you wait for help to arrive, stay with them and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm.

If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.

What the research says

(Video) Suicide Risk and Bipolar Disorder - Dr. Jim Collins

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 4.4% of people will experience bipolar disorder in their lives. In any given year, about 2.8% of people in the United States age 18 and older are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The condition can range from moderate to severe, but roughly 82% of people with bipolar disorder experience a severe form, enough to substantially impact their quality of life.

Living with bipolar disorder puts you at a higher risk of suicide, especially if you are not actively receiving treatment or sufficient support.

A 2019 review of studies reported that people with bipolar disorder have a 10 to 30 times greater risk of dying by suicide than the general population. The authors found that, especially in untreated bipolar disorder, up to 20% of people will die by suicide, and 20% to 60% will attempt suicide at least once.

Other mental health disorders include a risk of suicide, including major depression. Still, bipolar disorder has a higher risk of suicide than even major depression. People with bipolar disorder are twice as likely to die by suicide than people with major depression.

In addition to not being in treatment, there are certain risk factors that make someone with bipolar disorder more likely to attempt or die by suicide.

These include:

  • family history of bipolar disorder or suicide
  • being single or divorced
  • a history of childhood abuse or trauma
  • unemployment
  • younger age at onset of bipolar disorder
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • substance misuse
  • hospitalization with bipolar disorder
  • higher levels of depression when hospitalized
  • having bipolar disorder with mixed features

The longer bipolar disorder goes untreated after diagnosis, the higher the risk of suicide. Seeking care and managing your bipolar disorder can substantially reduce suicide risk and is the most important thing you can do for your health and safety.

People living with bipolar disorder tend to cycle between mood states, which can include mania, hypomania, and depression. Between these episodes, there are periods of relatively stable mood called euthymia.

There are two main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. Bipolar 1 involves more severe episodes of mania and depression. People with bipolar 2 will experience a more subdued form of mania called hypomania, along with depression.

Here’s a simple breakdown:

Bipolar disorder typeManiaHypomaniaDepression
bipolar I disorder
bipolar II disorder

Bipolar disorder shares some symptoms of other mental health conditions, and it’s common for people to be misdiagnosed at first. For example, one study found that an estimated 37% of people with bipolar disorder were first diagnosed with depression. Schizophrenia is also a potential misdiagnosis in people who have bipolar disorder.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from one person to another. Although the two main mood states of the disorder are mania and depression, some people experience mixed episodes as well. In mixed episodes, features of both mania and depression are present.

Manic episodes

Mania can look like the following:

  • feeling “high” and excitable, having more energy than usual
  • feeling irritable or angry
  • less need for sleep, insomnia
  • racing thoughts or speech
  • in rare cases, psychosis or hallucination

These episodes can cause an inflated sense of invincibility and self-esteem, leading to reckless decision making. While mania is often associated with contributing to “creative genius,” untreated mania shouldn’t be romanticized, as it can be very dangerous.

Hypomania manifests as a more subdued form of these symptoms and may be harder to spot. Hypomania can feel like being more energetic or productive than usual.

Depressive episodes

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder isn’t just about feeling sad or tired. It’s natural to feel down sometimes in response to troubling life events or bad days, but depression refers to a more severe state.

In bipolar disorder, depressive episodes can look like:

(Video) Bipolar and Suicidal Thoughts | HealthyPlace

  • feeling hopeless
  • feeling down about yourself, low self-esteem
  • trouble focusing, lack of interest in hobbies or activities
  • isolating yourself, avoiding friends and family
  • difficulty taking care of yourself and your space
  • thoughts of death, dying, or suicide (suicidal ideation)
  • engaging in forms of self-harm
(Video) Bipolar Disorder and Suicide Have A High Correlation

There are several treatment options for bipolar disorder. The gold standard is considered a combination of medication and therapy. Having an emotional support network is also key to long-term stability and helping you stick with a treatment plan.

  • Medication. Most people with bipolar disorder will need to take medication to manage their symptoms. Some people need to take more than one, and it may take several tries to find a med that works for you. Commonly prescribed medications include:
    • mood stabilizers, most commonly lithium
    • atypical antipsychotics
    • medications to help with sleep and anxiety
    • antidepressants may be prescribed during a depressive episode
  • Therapy. There are several types of therapy to treat bipolar disorder, including:
    • interpersonal therapy
    • social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)
    • talk therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • family-focused therapy
  • Lifestyle changes. It may be necessary to make adjustments to your habits and schedule to improve your overall health, which impacts moods. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and being physically active.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, meaning it needs to be managed lifelong.

While your treatment needs may change, it’s important to not suddenly stop medication or therapy because you “feel better.” This can create a mental health crisis. For people with bipolar disorder, consistency is key to staying stable and safe.

Seeking care and adhering to your care regimen is the best prevention against further manic and depressive episodes and against suicidal ideation.

These measures include:

  • creating and maintaining a strong emotional support network
  • staying in touch with your doctors and other healthcare professionals, even when feeling stable
  • attending all doctor and psychiatrist appointments regularly
  • taking medication(s) as directed
  • practicing health lifestyle habits, including proper sleep hygiene and exercise
  • updating your care team with any changes to your moods, or troubling new symptoms

When to seek help

(Video) Bipolar Disorder and Suicide Prevention | HealthyPlace

Being in treatment for bipolar disorder isn’t a guarantee you won’t have mood episodes, although treatment can lessen their severity. There may be times when you have a mental health crisis and need immediate care.

Pay attention to your moods, and reach out to your doctors and support network if you are feeling overwhelmed or unsafe. Remember: You’re not alone, and help is available.

Understanding the features of manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes can help you or loved ones identify a possible flare. Some people find it helpful to keep a diary of their symptoms to spot any concerning patterns.

If you think you or someone you care about with bipolar disorder is thinking about harming themselves, it’s imperative that you seek immediate assistance.

This can include:

  • calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • contacting the therapist or psychiatrist you are working with
  • calling an ambulance or having a loved one take you to the hospital for evaluation

If you believe someone is suicidal, do not leave them alone. Make sure they don’t have access to any means to harm themselves or others. This might mean removing medications or weapons from the area.

People with bipolar disorder are at increased risk of attempting and completing suicide than the general population. This is particularly true for people with untreated bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, but it can be effectively managed. Seeking care and maintaining a consistent treatment plan — including medication, therapy, and certain lifestyle changes — is the best suicide prevention tool.


What is the rate of suicide in bipolar disorder? ›

Researchers estimate that between 25% and 60% of individuals with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once in their lives and between 4% and 19% will complete suicide (2).

Which of the following mood disorders has the highest risk for suicide? ›

The long-term prospective study by Tondo et al. 19 found that the annual rate of suicide attempts during the follow-up was more than double in bipolar (I + II) than in unipolar patients and it was higher in bipolar I (1.52%), than in bipolar II (0.82%) and in unipolar (0.48%) depression.

What is the number one cause of death for people with bipolar? ›

Bipolar disorder is associated with a two- to threefold increased risk of premature mortality, including not only suicide death, but also cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer.

What does bipolar have a very high risk of? ›

¹ Characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood, bipolar disorder can disrupt daily life when not treated effectively. Also, because the disorder can increase the risk of substance use, suicide, and other risky behaviors, it's important to diagnose and treat the disorder as early as possible.

What is the average age of death for someone with bipolar disorder? ›

The life expectancy for someone with bipolar disorder is approximately 67 years old. A 2021 study researched the effect of bipolar disorder on longevity and found that: risk of death is 2.6 times greater than the general population. the average life span is between 8–12 years shorter than the general population.

Does bipolar get worse with age? ›

Bipolar disorder may worsen with age or over time if the condition is left untreated. As time goes on, a person may experience episodes that are more severe and more frequent than when symptoms first appeared.

Which psychiatric disorder has the highest risk of death? ›

Anorexia Nervosa – Highest Mortality Rate of Any Mental Disorder: Why? Anorexia is a deadly disease. In fact, experts suggest it's one of the most dangerous illnesses that can impact men and women.

Which mental illness carries the highest risk of death? ›

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a common eating disorder with the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric diseases.

What mental illness is similar to bipolar? ›

Cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, causes mood changes – from feeling low to emotional highs. Cyclothymia has many similarities to bipolar disorder.

What is end stage bipolar disorder? ›

Although there is no official classification for end stage bipolar disorder, mild structural changes in the brain that lead to cognitive dysfunction can severely reduce someone's quality of life, especially toward the end of life.

Who is most likely to get bipolar? ›

Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include:
  • Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder.
  • Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
Dec 13, 2022

Should you leave a bipolar person alone? ›

People with bipolar disorder do better when they have support from family members and friends. They tend to recover more quickly, experience fewer manic and depressive episodes, and have milder symptoms.

Is bipolar inherited from mother or father? ›

Defects in mitochondrial DNA sequences may contribute to a predisposition to such complex diseases as diabetes and bipolar disorder. Therefore, if all bipolar disorder patients have mitochondrial predisposition genes, then the transition of bipolar disorder from the mother's side would be higher.

What is the root cause of bipolar disorder? ›

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Experts believe there are a number of factors that work together to make a person more likely to develop it. These are thought to be a complex mix of physical, environmental and social factors.

Does bipolar damage the brain? ›

Research shows bipolar disorder may damage the brain over time. Experts think it's because you slowly lose amino acids. They help build the proteins that make up the insulation around your neurons.

What time of year is worst for bipolar disorder? ›

As mentioned above, studies have shown that bipolar depression may peak in spring, (1) summer, and winter months (11).

How do people with bipolar think? ›

Bipolar disorder can cause your mood to swing from an extreme high to an extreme low. Manic symptoms can include increased energy, excitement, impulsive behaviour, and agitation. Depressive symptoms can include lack of energy, feeling worthless, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

Does bipolar qualify for disability? ›

The SSA does consider bipolar a disability, so if you can match the SSA's listing, as well as meet the work requirements, the SSA will considered you disabled and you can earn SSDI benefits with your bipolar disorder diagnosis.

What are the 4 stages of bipolar? ›

Stages of Bipolar Disorder
  • Acute Mania. Acute mania is marked by energetic or irritable moods and accelerated activity. ...
  • Mixed Mood State. Mixed mood state includes symptoms of both manic and depressed mood. ...
  • Acute Major Depressive Episodes. ...
  • Continuation or Maintenance Phase.

Does bipolar count as a disability? ›

Both the ADA and SSA consider bipolar disorder a disability. That qualifies you to get extra protection and benefits under the law. To start the process, talk with your doctor. You will need documents to prove to the government that bipolar disorder affects your ability to work.

What's the most painful mental illness? ›

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has long been believed to be a disorder that produces the most intense emotional pain and distress in those who have this condition. Studies have shown that borderline patients experience chronic and significant emotional suffering and mental agony.

What is the number one leading mental illness? ›

Depression. Impacting an estimated 300 million people, depression is the most-common mental disorder and generally affects women more often than men.

What are the top 10 worst mental illnesses? ›

The top 10 mental health issues and illnesses include anxiety disorders, bipolar affective disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, paranoia, PTSD, psychosis, schizophrenia and OCD. One in four adult Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder at any given time.

What mental illnesses do most killers have? ›

As a psychoanalyst, Stone's specialty is personality disorders so it is not surprising that most of the mass murderers in his study were diagnosed with antisocial, psychopathic, narcissistic or paranoid personality disorder.

Which mental illness has a highest comorbidity with depression? ›

In mental health, one of the more common comorbidities is that of depression and anxiety. Some estimates show that 60% of those with anxiety will also have symptoms of depression, and the numbers are similar for those with depression also experiencing anxiety.

Can a brain MRI detect bipolar disorder? ›

MRIs and CT scans can provide detailed images of the brain and its structures. But currently, doctors don't use them to diagnose bipolar disorder. Detecting bipolar disorder is typically done through a diagnostic interview with a mental health professional.

Are you born with bipolar disorder or can you develop it? ›

Bipolar disorder is frequently inherited, with genetic factors accounting for approximately 80% of the cause of the condition. Bipolar disorder is the most likely psychiatric disorder to be passed down from family. If one parent has bipolar disorder, there's a 10% chance that their child will develop the illness.

What illness can mimic bipolar? ›

Cyclothymia symptoms alternate between emotional highs and lows. The highs of cyclothymia include symptoms of an elevated mood (hypomanic symptoms). The lows consist of mild or moderate depressive symptoms. Cyclothymia symptoms are similar to those of bipolar I or II disorder, but they're less severe.

What is the best job for bipolar? ›

Best jobs for people with bipolar disorder
  • librarian or library assistant.
  • archivist.
  • museum or gallery curator.
  • gardener or landscaper.
  • yoga or meditation teacher.
  • massage or spa therapist.
  • researcher.
  • tutor.
Mar 30, 2022

Can bipolar cause narcissism? ›

Mental health experts have found that some key features of bipolar disorder and narcissism overlap. These include setting high, sometimes unattainable, goals and being very impulsive. As a result, people with bipolar disorder often also have narcissistic personality disorder.

What is the newest drug for bipolar disorder? ›

In December 2021, the FDA approved Caplyta (lumateperone) to treat depressive episodes in bipolar 1 or 2 disorder in adults. It can be taken by itself or combined with lithium or valproate (Depakote). Caplyta is an oral capsule that you take once a day with or without food.

Can bipolar people be loved? ›

Absolutely. Can someone with bipolar disorder have a normal relationship? With work from both you and your partner, yes. When someone you love has bipolar disorder, their symptoms can be overwhelming at times.

What country has the most bipolar disorder? ›

The United States has the highest lifetime rate of bipolar disorder at 4.4%, and India the lowest, with 0.1%. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycles of depression and mania, a euphoric, high-energy state that can result in heightened levels of creativity or output as well as erratic or risky behavior.

What drugs can trigger bipolar disorder? ›

Drugs with a definite propensity to cause manic symptoms include levodopa, corticosteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids. Antidepressants of the tricyclic and monoamine oxidase inhibitor classes can induce mania in patients with pre-existing bipolar affective disorder.

Why you shouldn't argue with a bipolar person? ›

Never engage in dialogue with the other person's amygdala

For persons living with bipolar, the amygdala may be overactivated or very easily triggered. Don't engage in an argument or debate with your bipolar partner when he or she is in a fear state.

Why is it so hard to live with bipolar? ›

During bipolar mood swings, it is difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks, work, go to school, and maintain relationships. When a person has a manic episode, they feel overly excited, productive, and even invincible. These drastic behavior changes usually cause concern among friends and family.

What should you not do to a bipolar person? ›

What Not to Do if You or a Friend Has Bipolar Disorder
  • Patients: Don't Hide Symptoms from Your Doctor. ...
  • Patients: Don't Stop Taking Your Medications on Your Own. ...
  • Patients: Don't Keep Toxic People in Your Life. ...
  • Patients: Stop Damaging Your Body. ...
  • Patients: Don't Meddle With Your Medications.
Sep 21, 2020

At what age does bipolar start? ›

Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 15 and 19 and rarely develops after 40. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder. The pattern of mood swings in bipolar disorder varies widely between people.

Is bipolar becoming more common? ›

Bipolar disorder has seen rising incidence, which shows that more patients are being diagnosed with new cases of bipolar disorder. It also sees rising prevalence, which means that the overall mortality rate of bipolar disorder is relatively low with treatment.

Can someone with bipolar be a good parent? ›

Absolutely. Parents with bipolar disorder can still be “good” parents. Someone with bipolar disorder has the same capacity to love and make mistakes as any other person. details an account of a mom with bipolar disorder who internalizes how the condition affects her kids.

Why do bipolar push family away? ›

A bipolar person may avoid relationships because they don't feel good enough for other people. Sometimes these feelings come on quickly and cause those with mental health conditions to push away others in existing relationships. This can lead to social isolation.

Why do bipolar say hurtful things? ›

We Get “Mean and Nasty” Because It's a Symptom!

People with bipolar disorder get mean and nasty during agitated downswings or dysphoric manias because this is a symptom of bipolar disorder. It's not okay, and it doesn't mean that we get to go around yelling and abusing people.

Do people with bipolar treat others badly? ›

It's common for someone with bipolar disorder to hurt and offend their partner. When someone is first diagnosed, there are often relationship issues that need to be addressed. Couples counseling can help you: Understand that there's an illness involved in the hurtful behavior.

Does bipolar get worse as you age? ›

Bipolar disorder may worsen with age or over time if the condition is left untreated. As time goes on, a person may experience episodes that are more severe and more frequent than when symptoms first appeared.

What are 5 signs of bipolar? ›

Symptoms - Bipolar disorder
  • feeling sad, hopeless or irritable most of the time.
  • lacking energy.
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
  • loss of interest in everyday activities.
  • feelings of emptiness or worthlessness.
  • feelings of guilt and despair.
  • feeling pessimistic about everything.
  • self-doubt.

Do bipolar people know they are bipolar? ›

About 1 in 40 American adults live with it. It's common in children and adolescents, but it usually doesn't get diagnosed until adulthood—it can take up to ten years from the time a person experiences symptoms to the time they actually get diagnosed! So no, not everyone who has bipolar disorder knows they have it.

What percent of bipolar marriages end in divorce? ›

In the United States and Canada, at least 40 percent of all marriages fail. But the statistics for marriages involving a person who has bipolar disorder are especially sobering—an estimated 90 percent of these end in divorce, according to the article “Managing Bipolar Disorder” in Psychology Today.

What percentage of people with bipolar are violent? ›

Persons with bipolar disorder are at significantly increased risk for violence, with some history of violent behavior ranging from 9.4% to just under 50%, often in the presence of comorbid diagnoses. Bipolar patients are prone to agitation that can result in impulsive aggression during manic and mixed episodes.

What percentage of people live with bipolar disorder? ›

Prevalence of Bipolar Disorder Among Adults

An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.

What percentage of people with bipolar are hospitalized? ›

Other research has found that 21% of patients with bipolar disorder are hospitalized in a given year13.

Can a bipolar woman be faithful? ›

Of course, there are many reasons for infidelity within a marriage or committed relationship, and it's important to remember that having bipolar disorder does not mean you can't be faithful to a romantic partner.

What mental illness has the highest divorce rate? ›

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder, for example, were found to have the highest divorce rates. (Histrionic personality disorder typically involves a great deal of attention-seeking behavior, paired with rapidly changing emotions.)

Are bipolar people narcissistic? ›

Mental health experts have found that some key features of bipolar disorder and narcissism overlap. These include setting high, sometimes unattainable, goals and being very impulsive. As a result, people with bipolar disorder often also have narcissistic personality disorder.

Is it safe to live with a bipolar person? ›

You can absolutely have a healthy, happy relationship with a partner who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The condition may bring both positive and challenging aspects to the relationship, but you can take steps to support your partner and to help them manage their symptoms.

Who is likely to get bipolar? ›

Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include: Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder. Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event. Drug or alcohol abuse.

What nationality has the most bipolar? ›

There is higher reported prevalence of Bipolar I in Asians and Latinos. Asians and Latinos are more commonly treated for bipolar disorder type 1 than whites. This may be related to under‐diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or care underutilization of people with milder presentations of bipolar disorder. (e.g., type II) .

What is end stage bipolar? ›

Although there is no official classification for end stage bipolar disorder, mild structural changes in the brain that lead to cognitive dysfunction can severely reduce someone's quality of life, especially toward the end of life.

What is the most serious bipolar disorder? ›

Bipolar I disorder is the most severe form of the illness. Bipolar II disorder is characterized by predominantly depressive episodes accompanied by occasional hypomanic episodes. Hypomanic episodes are milder than manic episodes but can still impair functioning.


1. Suicide Ideation, Attempts and Death by Suicide in a Bipolar Disorder Population During the COVID 19
(Eisenberg Family Depression Center)
2. What Suicide Feels Like by Bipolar Major Depression - World Suicide Prevention Day
(RJ Hen)
3. The Course of Bipolar Disorder
(Dr. Todd Grande)
4. IMPORTANT FACT About Bipolar Disorder You Might Want to Know!
(Polar Warriors)
5. Mood Disorders and Suicide | Psychology
(Course Hero)
6. Preventing Suicide Among Persons With Bipolar Disorder
(International Bipolar Foundation)


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