Bipolar disorder is a brain condition characterized by extreme mood swings. Emotional ups and downs from time to time are normal for most people. However, if you have bipolar disorder, your feelings can reach abnormally low or high levels. At times, you may feel extremely energetic or excited, and at other times you sink into a deep depression. Some of these emotional highs and lows can last for weeks or even months.
There are four basic types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar 1 disorder
- Bipolar 2 disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia)
- Other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders
The most common types are bipolar I and II. All types of bipolar disorder feature episodes of extreme moods. The highs are known as manic episodes and the lows are known as depressive episodes.
Bipolar 1 vs. Bipolar 2
The main difference between 1 and 2 is the severity of the manic episodes caused by each type. For instance: a person with bipolar 1 will incur a full manic episode, but the person with bipolar 2 will experience only an episode that’s less severe than a full manic episode. A person with bipolar 1 may or may not experience a major depressive episode, but a person with bipolar 2 will endure a major depressive episode.
What’s Bipolar 1 Disorder?
An individual must have had at least one manic episode to be diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. As previously mentioned, a person with bipolar 1 may or may not have a major depressive episode. Still, the symptoms of a manic episode might be so severe that hospitalization is required. Manic episodes usually have these characteristics:
- Exceptional energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of euphoria
- Hazardous behaviors
- Difficulty sleeping
These symptoms tend to be so apparent and intrusive that it becomes clear that something is wrong.
What’s Bipolar 2 Disorder?
Bipolar 2 involves a major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode (less severe than a full-blown manic episode as described above). Individuals with bipolar 2 don’t typically have manic episodes severe enough to require hospital care.
Unfortunately, bipolar 2 is occasionally misdiagnosed as depression. This is because depressive symptoms may be the main symptom at the time the person goes for medical attention. Therefore, when there are no manic symptoms to suggest bipolar disorder, the depressive symptoms are the focus. Symptoms of depression in bipolar disorder are like the symptoms of clinical depression. They may include:
- Extended periods of sadness
- Loss of interest in people and activities enjoyed previously
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Thoughts of suicide
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
This type of bipolar disorder is a severe form that occurs when a person has at least four episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states within a year.
This form of bipolar disorder affects more women than men.