Undiagnosed, Untreated Bipolar Disorder in Women in their Late 40s Can Lead to Increased Risk of Suicide

Women are most at risk for developing bipolar disorder at two key stages of their lives: in their later teenage years and when they reach their late 40s, when the risk of suicide may increase.

“Although less common than early onset bipolar disorder, the incidence of bipolar disorder in women in their late 40s may be related to hormonal changes and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to an increased risk of suicide.”

“Although less common than early onset bipolar disorder, the incidence of bipolar disorder in women in their late 40s may be related to hormonal changes and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to an increased risk of suicide,” said David Chu, M.D., a psychiatrist and medical director of the inpatient psychiatric program at Southern California Hospital at Culver City.

The recent deaths by suicide of 55-year-old fashion designer Kate Spade and 61-year-old celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain have cast a spotlight on mental health issues. In a statement to the New York Times after her death, Spade’s husband Andy said she had been “actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last five years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety.”

“As a society, we have a tendency to keep quiet about mental health issues, but it’s critical that we address these issues openly and compassionately,” Dr. Chu said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. in 2016, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people. Many of these lives can be saved if symptoms are discovered and addressed early enough.

While proper medical treatment is necessary to help those at risk, it is just one of the many steps of suicide prevention. Knowledge and recognition of suicidal signals are key elements in prevention and are things that everyone can and should take part in.

If a loved one is considering suicide:

  • Do not leave him or her alone
  • Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from a doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911
  • Remove access to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications
  • Call the National Prevention Suicide Lifeline at  (800) 273-8255

 

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