Women with bipolar disorder experience this mental health condition differently from men. For one example, women are more likely to have rapid cycling bipolar disorder. This means having more frequent and quick changes in mood. We also have more complicating factors when it comes to the symptoms of the disorder. Women have more changes in hormone levels that can affect their moods. Women have a monthly hormone cycle, as well as menopause and pregnancy. All of these things affect the course of bipolar disorder. Because bipolar is different in women than in men, women\u2019s reactions to the disorder are different as well. Women may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to reduce or relieve symptoms. Women also need unique treatment that is tailored to them. The mental health profession has a long way to go to catch up to the needs of women with bipolar disorder, especially when it comes to self-medicating, but there is hope. Women With Bipolar Disorder Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by mood swings from manic to depressive. In a manic phase, you feel extremely up. You feel like you can take on the world, but you also feel irritable, and as if you cannot stop your racing thoughts. You may even be delusional. When depressed, you feel down, worthless, hopeless and even suicidal. To be somewhere in between the two phases is the goal, but is hard to achieve. Different people cycle between the two moods of bipolar disorder differently. Women are more likely to experience rapid cycling, which is defined as having four or more shifts between mania and depression in a given year. Why this is the case is not fully understood, but it may be related to hormones. Women with bipolar disorder also suffer more around their periods and at menopause. Pre-menstrual symptoms can be exaggerated in women who are bipolar, as can those associated with menopause. Women who are pregnant or are in the postpartum period are most adversely affected by bipolar symptoms. Women are seven times more likely to be admitted to a hospital for bipolar disorder during and after pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. Women Who Self-Medicate Because the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be so devastating and because they can affect us more severely during certain times thanks to our hormones, it is not uncommon for women with this condition to self-medicate. The practice of self-medicating is dangerous. It means using drugs, whether illegal or prescription, or alcohol, to find relief from symptoms. It is done without the direction of a doctor, and amounts to substance abuse. The dangers of self-medicating include the possibility of addiction, as well as the adverse health effects of using and even mixing drugs and alcohol. According to research, nearly half of all people who suffer from bipolar disorder attempt some type of self-medication. For women, there are particular risks associated with self-medicating. Because we are more prone to rapid cycling and more severe symptoms as our hormones are changing, we may turn to drugs and alcohol at these crucial times. Of particular concern are women who self-medicate while pregnant or soon after. Using drugs and alcohol during these times is dangerous\u2014not just for a mother, but also for her child. Besides the fact that self-medicating is dangerous, it also does not work very well. You may experience an immediate sense of relief. For instance, if you are in a depressed phase and you take a hit of amphetamines, you may get a burst of energy, but it won\u2019t last. There are much more effective and safer ways to cope with your bipolar disorder as a woman. Treatment for Bipolar Disorder There are many prescription medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder. This means you have options. Some women do not stick with treatment because they feel the medication is not working or that the side effects are too unpleasant. You have to understand that it may take time and several different drugs before you find the one that works best for you. In addition to your medications, therapy is a helpful way to cope with the feelings and symptoms you have. The most important thing is to stick with it. Women often give up and turn to drugs and alcohol and the act of self-medication. Find a doctor and therapist you trust, rely on the support of family and friends, avoid the temptation to abuse substances, and you will soon find relief.