Understanding the Types of Bipolar Disorder – Signs and Symptoms

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by intense mood swings between depression (feelings of being sad, low, or empty) and mania (feelings of elation, and energy). But few patients experience or show signs of bipolar disorder in the same way. For this reason, doctors have classified bipolar disorder into several different types based on the differences most commonly seen between patients.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Within these diagnoses, it is important to note that symptoms can still vary between people, and one person’s symptoms may change as they age. These factors, and the range of behaviors exhibited within the disorder, are part of what makes identifying bipolar disorder in oneself or a family member challenging.

The various types of bipolar disorder are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder – Those diagnosed with bipolar I have had a manic episode lasting one week or more. A major depressive or hypomanic episode may have come before or come after the manic episode.
  • Bipolar II Disorder – With bipolar II, a person has had at least one episode of severe depression and one episode of hypomania, but never a manic episode. The depression in bipolar II often lasts longer than bipolar I.
  • Mixed Features – Mixed features can happen with either bipolar I or bipolar II disorder and includes symptoms of both mania and depression occurring simultaneously rather than completely separate events.
  • Rapid Cycling – Another occurrence with either bipolar I or bipolar II, rapid cycling occurs whenever there are more than 4 distinctive episodes of mania or depression within a period of a year.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder – Although separate from bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder also has alternating periods of hypomania and depression, but with milder symptoms and shorter episodes. Patients must experience 2 years of episodes to receive a diagnosis, and it is possible for this disorder to become bipolar disorder.

Mania and hypomania are similar in their symptoms. A person experiencing either may have intense energy, extreme happiness, irritability, become easily distracted, have racing thoughts, sleep less, and have lowered inhibitions or take more risks.

The difference between the two is the severity of the symptoms. In a manic episode, the effects will significantly impact all areas of a person’s life and may trigger psychosis in extreme cases. During hypomania, the symptoms are more muted and the patient might not realize the difference themselves, although friends and family often can.

Despite hypomania having more subtle effects than mania, bipolar II disorder should not be considered a milder form of bipolar I. Instead they are two separate conditions, both with their own significant symptoms and corresponding treatment plans.

At Aware Behavioral Health, Dr. Sehdev treats all forms of bipolar disorder. There are a range of medications that are effective in reducing the effects of bipolar disorder and restoring a patient’s mental health. For assistance in understanding the various symptoms of this disorder in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, or to receive a diagnosis, contact Aware Behavioral Health to set up an appointment.

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