Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder describes a group of mood disorders characterized by one or more episodes of mania (unusually elevated mood) or depression (emotional low), or mixed episodes wherein features of both manic and depressive episodes manifest simultaneously. Bipolar disorder is classified based on the severity and nature of mood episodes: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.

Bipolar I disorder

About 2.5% of the American population, or nearly 6 million people, suffer from bipolar I disorder. A person affected by this condition experiences manic episodes or periods of abnormally elevated mood, coupled by abnormal behaviors that disrupt life. Most bipolar I patients also experience depressive episodes. In between manic and depressive episodes, many people with this condition can live normal lives.

Manic episodes manifest as either irritability or feeling "high" (euphoria). Abnormal behaviors during manic episodes include hypersexuality, inflated self-image, rapid and pressured" speech, excessive spending, having so many ideas, decreased need for sleep, and increased energy (hyperactivity). Depressive episodes, on the other hand, are characterized by depressed mood, low activity and energy, loss of pleasure, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Manic episodes are treated with medicines like antipyschotics and mood stabilizers. They are also treated with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Common antidepressants such as Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac can set off the depressive episode.

Bipolar II disorder

Similar to bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder is characterized by high moods cycling abnormally with low moods. The difference, however, is that the elevated moods in bipolar II disorder do not reach full-on mania, known as hypomania or hypomanic episodes. The signs and symptoms of this condition are similar to that of bipolar I disorder.

Bipolar II disorder often covers up as relentless optimism and happiness. Hypomania generally goes untreated when it does not cause abnormal behavior, unlike in true manic disorder, which almost always needs treatment with medications.

Cyclothymic disorder                                                                                  

About 0.4% – 1% of the American population has cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymia is a rather mild mood disorder compared with bipolar I and bipolar II disorders. In this condition, moods sway back and forth between short periods of hypomania and mild depression.

These high and low mood swings do not reach the level of severity of major mania or depression. In other words, cyclothymic disorder is a "bipolar-like" in nature. A person with this condition has milder symptoms than bipolar I and bipolar II disorders.