Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar can vary widely in how severe the moods are, how often they change and how disabling they are. Learn about the types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is an illness of yo-yoing moods. People who have it cycle between feeling very high and very low. Treatment can help level their moods out and prevent some of the damaging effects of the illness.

There are four general mood types:

  • Mania, a very "high," energetic mood. During a manic episode people with bipolar may talk nonstop, sleep very little and feel powerful and unbeatable. They may be impulsive and make poor judgments. They may also be irritable and get angry quickly. At its most severe, mania can cause delusions or hallucinations.
  • Hypomania, a less severe form of mania. People in a hypomanic episode may feel very upbeat, energized and productive. To others they may just seem to be in a really good mood. This state usually can't be maintained for long. It either escalates into mania or crashes into depression.
  • Depression. People with bipolar depression feel sad, hopeless and worthless. They may sleep a lot but still feel tired all the time. They lose interest in things they used to enjoy. They may also move and speak slowly and gain weight.
  • Mixed episode, which is a combination of low mood and high energy. So a person could feel depressed but also be agitated, anxious, irritable and sleepless.

In most people, episodes last for a few weeks or months. They may have periods of normal mood between episodes.

Types of bipolar disorder
People with bipolar vary widely in how severe their moods are, how often they change and how disabling they are. The basic types of bipolar disorder are:

  • Bipolar I. People withbipolar I have had one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes and at least one major depressive episode. This is the classic and most severe form of bipolar disorder, with extreme manic episodes.
  • Bipolar II. People with bipolar II don't have full-blown manic episodes. Instead, they cycle between hypomania and severe depression.This type of bipolar is sometimes mistaken for major depression.
  • Cyclothymia. People with cyclothymia have a milder form of the disorder. They have moods that swing between hypomania and mild depression, and have lasted for at least two or more years.
  • Not otherwise specified (NOS). People whose mood patterns don't fit those listed above may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder NOS.

Rapid cycling is diagnosed when a person has four or more episodes of mania, hypomania or depression in any 12-month period. This can occur in any type of bipolar disorder. In some people mood changes occur every few days or even every few hours.

The wide variation in types can make it hard to diagnose bipolar disorder correctly. Determining the type of bipolar is important because it helps guide treatment decisions.



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