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
  • Distractibility
  • 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

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

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.

If you or a loved one live with co-occurring bipolar and substance use disorders, contact The Recovery Village to learn about our comprehensive treatment plans. Reach out today for more information.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Vishwani Sahai, MD
Vishwani is a residency- and fellowship-trained adult and child psychiatrist. She attended medical school in India, and then went on to train at Brookdale University Hospital & Medical Center and University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Read more

International Bipolar Disorder. “About Bipolar Disorder.” Accessed May 22, 2019.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Bipolar Disorder.” August 2017. Accessed May 8, 2019

Perugi G, Hantouchie E, Vannucci G. “Diagnosis and Treatment of Cyclothymia: […]cy” of Temperament.” April 2017. Accessed May 8, 2019

Fagiolini A, Coluccia A, Maina G, Forgione RN, Goracci A, Cuomo A, Young AH. “Diagnosis, Epidemiology and Management o[…] in Bipolar Disorder.” CNS Drugs, September 2015. Accessed May 22, 2019.

Khouzam HR, Singh F. “Bipolar disorder: historic perspective, […]review of quetiapine.” Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, February 2006. Accessed May 22, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.