Understanding the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

Feb 12, 2024

Understanding the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

People often assume “bipolar disorder” is a single condition with extreme mood swings. However, like many mental health conditions, it’s only a category. In reality, there are different types of bipolar disorder, and their symptoms vary.

Trying to get an accurate medical diagnosis can always be tricky, especially when it involves a mental health diagnosis. That’s because conditions are often far more complex than meets the eye. A good example involves bipolar disorder.

When people hear “bipolar disorder,” they typically think of intense emotional highs and lows. That’s part of the reason it used to be called manic-depressive disorder.

However, there are several types of this condition, along with related disorders. And they all require lifelong management.

Our compassionate experts at Associates in Behavioral Science can ensure you receive an accurate diagnosis if you have a mental health condition. And we don’t stop there. We also take time to explain what it means and how to manage it moving forward.


Do you have bipolar disorder? Here’s what you should know about this unique condition.

Understanding bipolar disorder

When you have this condition, you have a brain disorder that changes your energy, mood, and ability to function. As a result, you can experience intense emotional states or mood episodes.

Generally speaking, we put mood disorders into three categories: 

  • Manic/hypomanic: abnormally happy or irritable mood
  • Depressive: sad mood
  • Euthymia: neutral or relatively stable mood

While people without bipolar disorder can also experience fluctuating moods, they typically last hours. When someone has bipolar disorder, they can last for days.

It’s also common for people with bipolar disorder to have additional symptoms, like extreme changes in behavior, problems with daily routines, and issues with social interactions.

As a result, bipolar disorder can disrupt relationships and interfere with work or school.

Learning you have bipolar disorder is only the beginning. That’s because there are additional details that describe your condition.

Bipolar I disorder

In many cases, people with bipolar I also have other mental health conditions, like substance use disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety disorders. 

This classification indicates a manic episode of at least one week, leaving someone either irritable or extremely high-spirited and energetic. They also have at least three other symptoms, such as:

  • Less need for sleep
  • Faster speech
  • Distractibility
  • Uncontrollable racing thoughts, topics, or ideas when speaking
  • Increased activity, including risky behavior
  • Delusions and/or hallucinations

These behaviors often require hospital care for the person’s safety.

In addition to a manic episode, people with bipolar I can also have less severe manic symptoms that last a minimum of four days and a major depressive episode for at least two weeks.

It’s crucial to receive proper care when you have bipolar I since the risk of suicide is significantly higher with this condition than for those in the general population.

Bipolar II disorder

Unlike bipolar I disorder, bipolar II only requires at least one major hypomanic episode and one major depressive event.

Major depressive episodes typically include:

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Intense despair or sadness
  • Increased or decreased sleep and/or appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Slower speech or movement
  • Fatigue
  • Problems concentrating

These episodes can also include frequent thoughts of suicide or death.

Like bipolar I, people with this type often have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or substance use disorders.

If someone with bipolar II also has a substance use disorder, it can also worsen symptoms of hypomania or depression.

Cyclothymic disorder

People often associate bipolar disorder with extreme symptoms, but there’s also a milder form — cyclothymic disorder.

When you have cyclothymic disorder, you still experience mood swings with hypomanic and depressive episodes. However, they’re typically less severe.

Instead, they occur for at least two years, last at least half of the time, and never stop for longer than two months.

Diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder

It can feel overwhelming learning you have bipolar disorder. 

However, our experts offer psychological and neurological testing to ensure you get an accurate diagnosis. This puts you on the path to getting the most effective treatment.

For most people with bipolar disorder, the best treatment strategy involves a combination of mood-stabilizing medication along with psychotherapy. This comprehensive approach controls your symptoms and gives you the tools you need to cope.

Our team can also provide guidance on stress reduction, regulating emotions, and improving sleep quality. 

All of these strategies can help you keep bipolar disorder under control so it doesn’t disrupt your daily life.

Do you have bipolar disorder? Learn more about your condition and get the personalized treatment you need at Associates in Behavioral Science. Contact our location nearest you to schedule a consultation in Berwyn or West Dundee, Illinois, today.