How Long does Bipolar Disorder Last

By  , Expert Content
Feb 23, 2012

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Quick Bites

  • Bipolar disorder is a common mental disorder that often goes undiagnosed
  • The chances of its episodes decrease though they may last a lifetime
  • Read about the duration of the disease and what happens if you do not get treatment on time


Bipolar disorder is a common type of mental health disorder which affects about 1 in every 100 adults at some point in their life. The disorder can start at any age, but it mostly starts during or after the teenager. Approximately fifty percent of the cases start before 25 years of age and rarely starts after the age of 40. Both the sexes are affected equally by bipolar disorder, but males may develop the disorder at an earlier age than females. The exact cause of the disorder is not known, but research suggests that it probably runs in the family or is caused because there is a physical problem with the brain systems which control our moods. A person is clinically diagnosed with bipolar episode if an episode of mania or depression lasts for at least seven days unbroken. People with the rapid-cycling bipolar disorder have at least two episodes of mania and two episodes of depression in one year.

Read: What is the Prognosis of Bipolar Disorder?

How Long does Bipolar Disorder Last

  • Bipolar disorder is a lifelong and recurrent illness. Hence, long-term treatment is needed to achieve control over bipolar symptoms. Most people with bipolar disorder are treated with medication and psychotherapy to relieve the severity of the symptoms and prevent relapse
  • People with more manic episodes are more likely to have another episode of symptoms. The risk of experiencing or suffering from another episode as you get older stays the same (i.e. the risk of experiencing symptoms does not increase or decrease with age). A person with bipolar disorder is at risk of having another episode even if he or she has been well for a long time
  • It was considered that in between episodes of mood swings, a person with bipolar disorder would return to the normal mental state, however, research shows that this is probably not true for many people with bipolar disorder. Many people may continue to experience mild depressive symptoms and problems with thinking and concentration even when their mood seems to be under control

Read: How can one Prevent Bipolar Disorder

What happens without Medication?

  • If a person with bipolar disorder is not treated, manic episodes may last for around two to three months whereas depressive episodes may last for as long as six months or more. Most cases of manic episodes do not last for more than four months
  • After the first episode of bipolar illness, it is difficult to predict how likely you are to have another episode. Many people may want to avoid medication at this stage unless the episode was very severe and disruptive, however, after the second episode, the risk of experiencing more episodes is increased. Therefore, after the second episode, most psychiatrists (a  who specialise in treating mental health disorder) will start a mood stabilising medication. Lithium (an effective mood stabilizing drug) is an effective mood stabilising drug. It can treat both manic and depressive episodes and reduce the chances of relapse by 30–40%. Other medications used for treatment of manic and depressive episodes of bipolar disorder also reduce the chance of relapse

Read more articles on Bipolar Disorder.

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