Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves periods of elevated mood and periods of depressed mood. There are various subtypes of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition that requires lifelong treatment. As many as 4.4 % of U.S. adults experience this condition that can dramatically alter their mood, energy levels and thought processes. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t just one type of bipolar disorder; there are several subtypes of bipolar disorder that different in symptoms presented and treatment methods used.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder is characterized by manic episodes, which are distinct periods of elevated mood, increased goal-directed activity and heightened energy that persist for at least a week and are present for most of the day. Bipolar I disorder is also identified by a group of other symptoms, including:
- Inflated self-esteem
- Decreased need for sleep
- Being more talkative than usual, also known as “pressured speech”
- Racing thoughts
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
Bipolar II Disorder
While bipolar II disorder shares many symptoms with bipolar I disorder, it is a more mild form of the condition that has less significant impacts on daily functioning. Instead of experiencing mania, individuals with bipolar II disorder have periodic episodes of hypomania. As a patient, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two disorders, but a psychiatrist can make the correct diagnosis when an accurate medical history is provided.
Individuals with the cyclothymia subtype of bipolar disorder cycle between hypomanic and depressive episodes. For a diagnosis to be made, mood cycling must occur for at least two years, with at least one year occurring during childhood. During the two-year period, hypomanic and depressive episodes must be present for at least half the time, and the individual must not have been without symptoms for more than two months. Between 30–50% of patients with depressive, impulsive, borderline or anxious personality disorders may suffer from cyclothymia later on in life.
Not Otherwise Specified
Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified is diagnosed when an individual experiences some symptoms of bipolar disorder but does not meet the full criteria for any specific subtype of bipolar disorder.
Mixed episodes occur when a person with bipolar l or bipolar ll disorder experiences manic and depressive symptoms at the same time. About 40% of people with bipolar disorder have mixed episodes. Individuals who experience mixed episodes of bipolar disorder tend to have a more severe form of the condition.
Rapid cycling bipolar disorder involves at least four episodes of mood changes within a 12-month period. The episodes must meet both the duration and symptom number criteria for a major depressive, manic or hypomanic episode and cannot be caused by substance use, medications or other medical conditions for a diagnosis to be made.
Because most forms of bipolar disorder impact many aspects of an individual’s personal and professional life, it’s important that anyone showing signs of bipolar disorder seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for bipolar is particularly important when co-occurring mental health conditions, like addiction, are present.
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