Recognizing The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder

February 7, 2023

Bipolar disorder, to put it simply, is a brain disorder causing unusual mood changes and shifts in energy and level of activity. These moods are known as manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes. But is there just one type of bipolar disorder to fit all cases? No, much like other mental illnesses such as anxiety, which includes types such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder, there are different types of classifications of bipolar disorder.

Dive in headfirst and start reading to understand the different moods in bipolar disorders and how each type of bipolar disorder presents itself and how they are treated.

Understanding Manic And Hypomanic Episodes

In a manic episode, patients are likely to experience feelings of extreme elation or on a ‘high,’ see an increase in activity and energy, have difficulty sleeping, do risky things such as engaging in reckless sex or spending lots of money, and believe they can do many things at the same time. They may also feel quite ‘wired’ or extremely ‘jumpy,’ talk incredibly fast about many different topics, become easily agitated, feel 'keyed up,' and may also feel as if their thoughts are moving quite quickly.

Hypomanic episodes can have many of the same markers as manic episodes, such as seeing an increase in energy or having difficulty sleeping, but these markers will be less severe. Also, during one of these episodes, the patient may be highly productive, feel quite good, and overall will likely function well. However, family and friends may recognize the mood swings as being out of the norm for most individuals.

Continue reading to understand what depressive episodes in bipolar disorders are and what behaviors patients are likely to exhibit.

Understanding Depressive Episodes

Of course, the exact opposite of a manic or hypomanic episode is a depressive episode. In bipolar disorders, those who are having a depressive episode are likely to feel extremely down, empty, or hopeless. Other indicators of a depressive episode include having little energy, decreased levels of activity, feeling as if they are unable to enjoy anything, having difficulties concentrating, eating too little or too much, being quite forgetful, sleeping too much or too little, and thinking about suicide or death.

It is significant to note that depressive episodes in bipolar disorders are what typically gets individuals to seek treatment. It is also easy to misdiagnose bipolar disorders for major depressionsince depressive episodes exhibit many of the same markers. The key, of course, is in the mood shifts.

Now is the time to use this knowledge of depressive, hypomanic, and manic episodes to differentiate between the different types of bipolar disorder. Keep reading to learn aboutbipolar I disorder.

Bipolar I Disorder

Chances are when individuals see, read, or hear about a general definition of bipolar disorder, including depictions on screens and in literature, it is a definition of bipolar I disorder, sometimes referred to as 'classic manic-depressive disorder'. A more detailed description of this type of bipolar disorder includes manic episodes lasting a minimum of seven days, or severe manic symptoms requiring immediate hospitalization. Depressive episodes will also occur and will usually last at least two weeks under this type. There may also be periods mixing the two.

Treatment for this type of bipolar disorder typically includes medication, usually mood stabilizers or anti-depressants, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. While this is typically enough, in cases where medication and psychotherapy have not helped the patient, doctors may prescribe electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In ECT, the patient is under anesthesia, and the doctor uses a short electrical current applied to the patient’s scalp. Each session lasts for ten to fifteen minutes, and patients often start with two or three treatments a week for a duration of six to twelve weeks.

Continue reading to learn how to identify bipolar II disorder and how it differentiates from bipolar I disorder now.

Bipolar II Disorder

Like patients with bipolar I disorder, those who have bipolar II disorder must have at least one major depressive episode. However, the significant difference between the two is individuals with bipolar II disorder experience hypomanic episodes rather than manic. Patients who seek treatment for bipolar II disorder often go in due to the depressive episodes first, which can be quite severe. Individuals who have this type of bipolar disorder usually have other mental illnesses, such as generalized anxiety disorder, or substance use disorder.

Doctors will treat bipolar II disorder with medication and psychotherapy, much like they would bipolar I disorder. Similarly, ECT may come into play if medication and psychotherapy are not working for the patient.

Continue reading to discover the third primary type of bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and how it is treated.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is a milder type of bipolar disorder with less severe symptoms than the two previous types, though this form has many mood swings with hypomanic and depressive symptoms occurring almost regularly. However, the hypomanic and depressive symptoms experienced in this disorder must occur for at least two years but do not meet the criteria for a depressive or hypomanic episode. Mood swings during this two year period must have occurred for at least half the time and have not stopped for longer than two months at a time.

Treatment for cyclothymic disorder, like the other two types, will often involve medication and psychotherapy, though ECT is usually not an option. Additionally, those with cyclothymic disorder are more likely to start and stop treatment repeatedly.

Continue reading to find out how doctors classify potential cases of bipolar disorder when they do not fit into the three previous types.

Other Specified Bipolar And Related Disorders

In cases where patients are exhibiting bipolar-like symptoms but do not meet the criteria for one of the three previously defined types, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has the final type: other specified bipolar and related disorders. The DSM-5 has this category to encourage further study into bipolar disorders as a whole, as those who wrote the manual believe bipolar disorders are under-recognized. This is due to many of the symptoms seen in bipolar disorders are similar to other mental illnesses, which results in making an accurate diagnosis difficult for doctors in some instances. Treatment in this can vary widely but tends to include medication such as a mood stabilizers and psychotherapy.

In all instances of bipolar disorder, however, diagnosing and treating the condition is essential for patients to live full and healthy lives without fear.

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