Bipolar Disorder and Body Image Concerns

Bipolar Disorder and Body Image Concerns

Have you seen some people with high mood variations, which range from an intense high state to a depressed state? This is nothing but bipolar disorder. But do you know this disease affects body image also? Let’s discuss in this article what bipolar disorder is and how it affects body image. 

What is Bipolar Disorder?

What is Bipolar Disorder?

 It is a mental illness that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, concentration, and activity level. This disease affects a person’s ability to perform day-to-day activities and makes it difficult for them. Earlier it used to be called manic depressive illness. (1) 

There are three types of bipolar disorder: 

  1. Bipolar disorder l: in this type, a manic episode last for 7 days or more, sometimes manic episodes are when a severe person may need medical attention. Depression episodes will typically last for 2 weeks. Sometimes mixed symptoms can also occur. When episodes of mania or depression come more than 4 times in a year it is called rapid cycling. 
  2. Bipolar disorder ll: in this type of disorder patterns of depression and hypomania will be seen. Hypomanic is less dangerous than manic episodes in bipolar disorder l. 
  3. Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): recurrent depressive and hypomanic episodes which are not intense enough to be qualified as a hypomanic or depressive disease. But these episodes reoccur after some time. 

Sometimes a person may feel symptoms of bipolar disorder which do not match with criteria of three types, this is called other specified and unspecified bipolar-related disorders. 

Bipolar disorder often occurs in late adolescence and early adult age. It occurs in 2.8 % of the U.S. population. Treatment for bipolar disorder is lifelong. Following a treatment plan sincerely can help a bipolar disorder patient sustain life healthily. 

What is body image? 

What is body image? 

Body image is nothing but the impression you have of your physical appearance and how you feel about your body. This is affected by many factors like social norms, Personal experience, and cultural expectations. (2)

Research shows that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to face body image issues as compared to others. 

How does bipolar disorder affect someone’s body image? 

The exact mechanism behind this is unknown, still, much research needs to be done. But some of the reasons are : 

  • Treatment of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that is treated with medications like lithium which can lead to side effects like an increase in body weight. 

It has been observed that nearly 70 percent of people who seek bipolar treatment face this problem. An increase in weight will lead to obesity which is linked to more body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and depression and individuals will face body image issues. 

Researchers found that people with bipolar disorder ll are more concerned about body image than bipolar disorder l patients and they have a high rate of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and neuroticism which explains why they face more body image issues. 

  • Relation between bipolar disorder and disordered eating

Is it true that bipolar disorder can cause eating disorders? 

So, it has been observed that 1 out of 3 people with bipolar disorder also have an eating disorder, the reason behind that can be :

  • Stress eating: some people eat more during stress. This happens more during depressive episodes. 
  • During mania episodes, people will care less about themselves and do not focus on their bodies. Lack of planning and unfocused thought during mania episodes make it harder for them to focus on their diet. 
  • Due to increased weight as a side effect of treatment, some people become conscious and stop taking medication that will worsen their condition.

The stigma surrounding mental illness also contributes to negative body image issues. Society often portrays mental illness as weaknesses or character flaws, which will lead to feeling ashamed of their condition. This shame can be internalized and results in body dissatisfaction and negative self-talk. 

How to deal with body image issues due to bipolar disorder? 

How to deal with body image issues due to bipolar disorder? 

Not only bipolar disorder patients, but body image issues can also be challenging for anyone. It can be difficult for them to deal with things. Some ways can help someone deal with this issue: 

  • Therapy: one who is facing body image issues can consult a therapist and seek professional help. Therapists can tell you how to deal with your body image concerns and also take care of your bipolar disorder.
  • Identify your trigger: keep a note of things that change your mood immediately and anybody’s body image concerns that arise. This will help you to identify triggers that can exacerbate your symptoms.
  • Mindfulness techniques: practice mindfulness techniques, it will help you to manage negative thoughts and feelings related to body image. You can do meditation, yoga or drop breathing exercises.
  • Appreciate yourself: appreciate what is good about you and ignore negative thoughts. 
  • Search for a person with a similar body: after doing this you will get to know that there are many people like you and they love their body shape. You can take inspiration from them.


Bipolar disorder and body image issues are interconnected and a person with bipolar disorder is at high risk of facing these body image issues. The exact reason behind this is unknown but treatment side effects which lead to weight gain can be one of the main reasons. By addressing these concerns and seeking help and support, individuals with bipolar disorder can improve their overall well-being and quality of life.

It is important to note that it is normal to face body image issues.