Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects an estimated 2.8% of adults in the United States.1 It is a complex and often misunderstood condition, but effective treatment enables people to live fulfilling lives. However, when left untreated, bipolar disorder can cause dangerous complications over time.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can cause long-term challenges. The longer the condition goes undetected, the worse a person’s symptoms become. Bipolar disorder is manageable with proper intervention and ongoing care, but what happens if bipolar is left untreated?
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes drastic fluctuations in mood and energy levels. Individuals with bipolar disorder also experience shifts in activity levels, trouble concentrating, and difficulties carrying out daily tasks.
Bipolar disorder consists of two primary mood episodes: manic and depressive. Manic episodes cause people to feel very “up,” energized, excited, and irritable. On the other hand, depressive episodes cause people to feel “down,” indifferent, sad, or hopeless. Some individuals experience less severe manic episodes called hypomanic episodes.
What Happens if Bipolar is Left Untreated?
Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition, but people can learn to manage their symptoms with intervention and support. But what happens if bipolar disorder is left untreated? The condition can easily dictate a person’s quality of life when left untreated. Symptoms worsen with time, lead to other health concerns, and may render someone incapable of caring for themselves.2 Some of the risks of untreated bipolar disorder include:
Development of other mental health disorders
Symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to those of other mental health disorders. When left untreated, some symptoms may progress into other conditions such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or psychosis.
Worsening relationships with friends or family members
Relationships are complex for everyone, but they’re even more challenging for someone with untreated bipolar disorder. Emotional dysregulation is a primary component of the condition and strains interpersonal relationships.
Maintaining employment is a challenge for someone with untreated bipolar disorder. The impulsivity of manic episodes and hopelessness of depressive episodes can make it hard to show up consistently. According to the World Health Organization, bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide.3
Drug or alcohol use disorder
Risky behaviors are characteristic of manic episodes, and drug and alcohol use are common. When bipolar disorder is left untreated, people with the condition may continue turning to substances for relief from their symptoms. Ongoing substance use can progress into a drug or alcohol use disorder.
Suicidal ideation or suicide
Research shows that individuals with bipolar disorder have higher rates of attempted suicide and death by suicide.4 At its extreme, when bipolar disorder is left untreated, it can lead a person to struggle with suicidal thoughts or actions.
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder
Thankfully, treatment for bipolar disorder is widely available. It can be difficult to ask for help, but avoid the dangers of leaving bipolar disorder untreated. Clearview Treatment Programs is a network of facilities that have served as leaders in the specialized behavioral treatment field for over two decades. We understand the complexities of bipolar disorder and are here to help you every step of the way. Call us at 866-339-3544 to find out which program best suits your needs and begin your path to healing today.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Bipolar Disorder.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Bipolar Disorder Fact Sheet.
- Depression Research and Treatment. (2012). Bipolar Disorder.
- Journal of Psychiatric Research. (2009). Substance Use Disorders and Suicide Attempts in Bipolar Subtypes.