Understanding the Connection Between Fluctuating Hormones and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder presents differently in different patients — even when the individuals have the same subset diagnosis. Some individuals experience primarily one symptom or another, and these symptoms can closely resemble those of other conditions, such as simple depression or schizophrenia.

There is no clinical test for bipolar disorder; rather, a diagnosis is made on the basis of reported behavior and tests that eliminate other possibilities. For all these reasons and more, it can be difficult for physicians to confidently diagnose bipolar disorder when there could be other explanations for symptoms.

Suspected Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Mental health specialists believe bipolar disorder rresults from a combination of internal and external factors, including the following:

  • Differences in neurology
  • Genetics
  • Family history1

Because bipolar disorder is believed to result from many sources, there is a myriad of potential factors that can affect symptoms of bipolar disorder. Hormones deeply influence how you feel — physically and emotionally — and can play a role in how you manage your bipolar disorder.

Fluctuating Hormone Levels and Bipolar Disorder

Although medical professionals have not indicated hormones as a possible cause of bipolar disorder, it is likely that fluctuating hormone levels contribute to the condition. Bipolar disorder is considered a mood spectrum disorder, a condition that shifts moods from one extreme to the other. Hormone levels may also cause rapid or extreme mood changes.

Additionally, unbalanced hormones of someone with bipolar disorder may trigger a bipolar episode, who may otherwise be able to better manage their diagnosis. It may be in some cases that all other factors were in place to experience an episode, and fluctuating hormone levels were the impetus for the disruption.

Women: Bipolar or Hormonal Issues?

Women suffer the effects of changing hormone levels more profoundly than do men. Some women experience fluctuating hormones to such a degree that they commonly experience depression or extreme mood swings. The result may be so severe that their moods resemble similar shifts caused by bipolar disorder.

This can present problems for diagnosis because a doctor may think bipolar disorder is present when a patient in fact suffers from profound hormonal imbalance. Additionally, a woman with bipolar disorder who experiences mood swings due to fluctuating hormones is likely to suffer more frequent and more severe bipolar episodes.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

If you need help finding treatment, or if you have questions about bipolar disorder and treatment, please call our toll-free, 24-hour helpline at 844-675-1221 for support. We want to help you on your journey to greater health.


“Bipolar Disorder.” National Institute on Mental Health. April 2016.

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