Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by depressive episodes alternating with periods of mania. These episodes can affect many systems in your body, so it’s essential to understand the physical changes associated with bipolar disorder. Once you understand and find out the answer to the question of how can bipolar disorder affect you physically, work with experienced professionals to develop a treatment plan that helps you feel your best.

Read on to learn “How Can Bipolar Disorder Affect You Physically?”

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Effects of Bipolar Disorder to the Different Systems of the Body

Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Central Nervous System

Bipolar disorder affects the brain, part of the central nervous system. This system is made up of a series of nerves that control brain activity. When experiencing a manic episode, your mind may be racing, and you may find it hard to control your thoughts.

You may be restless and have a hard time making decisions. A depressive episode can make it hard for you to concentrate. These episodes can also make you sleep more than usual, while manic episodes can make it hard to sleep.

Bipolar disorder has even been linked to a reduced amount of gray matter in the brain. The loss of gray matter typically occurs in the brain region responsible for impulse control, reflexes, motor skills and reaction time. As a result, people with bipolar disorder may have slower reflexes or struggle to complete tasks requiring advanced motor skills.

Consequences of misdiagnosis in mental health and how can bipolar disorder affect you physically

Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Endocrine System

Your endocrine system is made up of glands responsible for producing hormones. These hormones act as chemical messengers in your body, which is extremely important for normal functioning. Bipolar disorder affects this system in several ways, but one of the most common is reduced libido or less interest in sexual activity. This typically occurs in people experiencing significant depression symptoms of bipolar disorder.

When you have a manic or hypomanic episode, your sex drive may kick into high gear, causing you to make impulsive decisions regarding your sexual behavior. This sudden change in sexual behavior may accompany other impulsive behaviors associated with manic depressive illness, such as driving recklessly or gambling with large sums of money.

Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system comprises the heart and blood vessels, making it one of the most critical systems in the human body. Although bipolar disorder is known for its psychological effects, it can affect the cardiovascular system in several ways, especially if you experience anxiety as part of your condition. Bipolar disorder paired with one or more anxiety disorders may cause heart palpitations or an increased heart rate. This makes treating bipolar disorder extremely important.

Depressive symptoms may even increase the risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, manic depression and other forms of depression cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. This reduces the amount of blood flowing to the heart and triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal glands. If you don’t get treatment for your symptoms, these physical effects of bipolar disorder may lead to heart disease.

Brain image illustrating the physical impact of bipolar disorder on mental health.

Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Skeletal and Muscular Systems

Although bipolar disorder primarily does not impact the muscles or bones directly, it does manifest physical signs of bipolar disorder during depressive episodes. Depression can lead to aches and pains, making it hard to manage everyday activities. It can also be hard to exercise if you’re feeling discomfort. However, we all need exercise as a way of experiencing “feel good” endorphins.

The symptoms resulting from bipolar depression and manic or hypomanic episodes may eventually lead to muscle weakness and other musculoskeletal problems. Your muscles may weaken if you don’t eat well for long periods. For example, if you have a major depressive episode, you may not have the energy to prepare or shop for nutritious foods.

Bipolar disorder has also been linked to a condition known as sarcopenia. In simple terms, sarcopenia is a loss of skeletal muscle mass. Researchers believe sarcopenia occurs due to the oxidative stress associated with bipolar disorder. Oxidative stress is cellular damage that occurs when the chemical reactions inside the body produce substances known as free radicals.

One way to reduce oxidative stress is to consume plenty of antioxidants, helpful chemicals found in fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. If a manic or depressive episode makes it difficult to follow a balanced diet, you may not get enough antioxidants to combat the free radicals in your bloodstream.

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Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Gastrointestinal System

Because bipolar disorder can make you tired and irritable, your gastrointestinal system may be affected. You may experience things like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Stomach problems can also lead to sweating and rapid breathing. Symptoms could bring you into a panic or produce a sense of doom.

According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, bipolar disorder itself may result from inflammation and abnormal gut health. Current research on the connection may eventually help people with bipolar disorder control their physical and psychological symptoms.

Other Effects of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can make work or school performance very tough. It can also be hard to build and maintain relationships with your peers. Bipolar disorder can lead to heavy alcohol use, spontaneous shopping sprees and unrealistic beliefs in your abilities.

Maintaining relationships is difficult for several reasons. When you have a manic episode, you may engage in impulsive behavior that makes friends or family uncomfortable. You may also babble or use many gestures that make it difficult for other people to communicate with you.

Even after you get a bipolar disorder diagnosis, you may continue experiencing severe debilitating depression until you find the right treatment plan. Major depressive episodes make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and perform your usual activities, which may interfere with your ability to plan with the people you love.

Adult male holding a help sign on top of a head concept image for mental illness and bipolar disorder symptoms

Physical Health Effects of Bipolar Disorder vs. Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder and bipolar disorder cause similar symptoms, but there are some key differences between the two. Bipolar disorder, including bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder, typically causes more severe symptoms than cyclothymic disorder. Like bipolar disorder, cyclothymia causes manic and depressive symptoms, although they’re less extreme.

The cyclothymic disorder may also cause some physical symptoms. One of the most common is excessive physical activity, which may lead to unintended weight loss. Like people with bipolar disorder, people with cyclothymia often have difficulty sleeping during a manic episode. The lack of sleep may lead to fatigue during the day, resulting in poor concentration and difficulty performing complex tasks.

Seek Bipolar Disorder Treatment Today at Alta Loma in Texas

Because bipolar disorder leads to depressive and manic episodes, it can take a toll on the systems inside your body. Your mind may become disorganized, and your stomach may hurt. These symptoms worsen over time, making it essential to receive ongoing treatment for bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder and cyclothymia. Recognizing the signs of bipolar disorder can help you seek timely and appropriate care.

Recognizing the physical signs of bipolar disorder can help you seek timely and appropriate care for men’s bipolar disorder treatment. At Alta Loma, we recognize the gravity of physical symptoms of bipolar disorder and are committed to providing assistance and support. Our transformative mental health treatment in Georgetown, Texas, can provide individualized therapy, medication management, coping skills, education and more. Call us today at (866) 457-3843 to learn about the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder.