2 Types of Bipolar Disorder | A Definitive Guide


One of the most popular modern political TV series, Homeland, is considered to be a very accurate depiction of Bipolar Disorder. In the show, Carrie Mathison is a CIA operative who uses her investigative skills to fight terrorism through espionage and clever tactics. In fact, many thought Claire Danes (the actress portraying Mathison) actually suffered from bipolar disorder as a result of her extraordinary acting. Nonetheless, the show struck a chord with viewers and everyone was hooked. Not just Homeland, bipolar disorder has been depicted quite a lot in modern pop culture. Today, we talk all about bipolar disorder, its signs & symptoms and how to treat its various types.

Bipolar Disorder: Types, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme shifts in energy, mood and levels of concentration, leading to the inability to perform everyday tasks effectively. The disorder was previously called manic-depressive illness or manic depression.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are 2 types of bipolar disorders characterized by sudden changes in mood and periods of inactivity: Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. The range of these mood swings is manic episodes (irritable or extremely energized behavior), depressive episodes (indifferent, sad, and depressive behavior) and hypomanic episodes (manic periods of comparatively lesser activity and duration). The 2 types of bipolar disorder are:

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is defined by episodes of severe manic symptoms for at least 7 days. The symptoms of this type are severe and require immediate medical attention. A period of depressive symptoms, accompanied by manic episodes lasting for 2 weeks at a stretch, can also be seen during this time period.

Bipolar II Disorder

This type is defined by episodes of hypomanic and depressive behavior. With Bipolar II Disorder, the person’s behavior ranges from erratic highs to depressive lows, even though the symptoms are not as extreme as those in Bipolar I Disorder.

At times, the individual may experience different symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not align with the categories mentioned above. These symptoms are often grouped under unspecified bipolar disorders. Typically, individuals in their early adulthood or later adolescence are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Pregnant women are also susceptible to bipolar disorder and, while it may be rare, these symptoms have been observed in children as well.

What is Bipolar I Disorder?

Bipolar I Disorder is the first among the 2 types of bipolar disorder. It is defined by the occurrence of one or more states of highly elated moods, excited states, and dramatic behavior changes. All the episodes of bipolar I disorder do not follow a set pattern. These are erratic behaviors that may last from a few hours to several years. A person may feel depressed for a prolonged duration before turning jovial. These periods of polar behavior may last weeks, months, or in some cases, even years. The severity and time period of the symptoms varies from person to person.

Symptoms of Bipolar I Disorder

A person who has Bipolar I Disorder has experienced at least one manic episode in his/her lifetime. A manic episode is characterized by a period of elevated moods, super-excited states and irritable behavior. Most often than not, a person suffering from bipolar I disorder also suffers from periods of depression and extreme lows. The most common symptoms are as follows.

1. Periods of extreme happiness, excitement and fun

2. A sudden switch in mood from happiness to hostility

3. Incoherent speech and articulation

4. High sex drive

5. Drug and alcohol abuse

6. Poor eating habits and loss of appetite

7. Impulsive decisions

8. Unrealistic and grand plans

9. Increased activity and lack of sleep

Causes of Bipolar I Disorder

There are no definitive causes of Bipolar I Disorder; many factors can contribute to the onset of this type of disorder. Here are a few factors that can contribute to the genesis of Bipolar I Disorder:


Having a first-degree relative diagnosed with the disorder increases the risk factor of acquiring the illness.

Biological Factors

It is common for a person suffering from the disorder to have an anomaly in the brain’s structure. These anomalies are often touted to be the reason behind the development of bipolar disorder.

Environmental Factors

Factors like extreme stress, physical illness, physical abuse or substance abuse may also trigger this disorder.

Treatment of Bipolar I Disorder

Like all mental illnesses, Bipolar Disorder can be treated with a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. However, the treatment helps in containment and not cure. Here are the various forms of treatment of Bipolar I Disorder:


Certain mood stabilizers and second-generation anti-psychotics may be administered by a doctor to treat the disorder. Targeted sleep therapy is also one of the methods that is used to treat Bipolar I Disorder. 


Talk therapy, where the therapist educates the patient on the ways to manage the disorder, recognize thought patterns and come up with coping mechanisms is proven to be useful in treating Bipolar I Disorder.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

A brain stimulation process specially administered in severe cases. This therapy is safe and performed under the effect of anesthesia.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation 

A relatively newer process that uses magnetic waves to treat severe depression.

Lifestyle Changes 

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and meditation also helps in combating bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar II Disorder?

With similar mood swings, Bipolar II Disorder is almost the same as Bipolar I Disorder. However, the extremes are tad moderate in comparison to Bipolar I Disorder. The reduced elevated mood episodes are called hypomanic episodes or hypomania. Most individuals who suffer from this disorder experience more and prolonged periods of depression called Manic Depression.

Symptoms of Bipolar II Disorder

The onset of bipolar II disorder starts with the following symptoms:

1. Feeling of hopelessness and depression

2. Loss of energy

3. Drowsiness and lack of activity

4. Insomnia

5. Sadness and restlessness

6. Forgetfulness

7. Slow or slurred speech

8. Reduced sex drive

9. Developing eating habits that may lead to anorexia or obesity

10. Bouts of uncontrollable crying

11. Suicidal tendency and thoughts of self-harm

12. Feeling of worthlessness

13. Anhedonia or inability to feel pleasure

The depressive episodes in bipolar II disorders can later develop into clinical depression. Some individuals may experience both Bipolar II Disorder and clinical depression in intervals, while a few experience prolonged feelings of sadness.

Causes of Bipolar II Disorder

The triggers of bipolar II disorder are the same as that of bipolar I disorder. However, they are not yet definitely proven. Some of the causes of Bipolar II Disorder are:

Brain Damage

Probable damages, be it psychological or physical, can eventually cause the development of Bipolar II Disorder.


A family history of these disorders increases the risk factors by many folds. Although the genetic transfer of bipolar disorder is still under study, it has been observed in many cases.

Environmental Factors

A history of abuse, trauma, anxiety or excessive stress can increase the risk of bipolar II disorder.

Treatment of Bipolar II Disorder

Like Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder does not have a specific treatment. Doctors usually recommend antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics to patients to help deal with the symptoms associated with the illness. Another popular treatment is psychotherapy, wherein a therapist helps the patient recognize various symptoms and how to manage them.

What is Cyclothymic Disorder?

Cyclothymic Disorder is a mental disorder defined by sudden changes in mood, from extreme highs to extreme lows. Though similar to Bipolar Disorder, symptoms in the case of Cyclothymic Disorder are less extreme. Generally, people with this disorder do not seek medical help since the symptoms are not extreme. This results in many undiagnosed cases of this particular type of disorder.

People suffering from this disorder are at very high risk of developing Bipolar Disorder. Even though both men and women suffer from this disease, the percentage of women developing this disorder, is higher.

Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder causes short bouts of mood swings, ranging from low to extremely high, also called hypomania. As the low mood periods do not last very long and are not severe, this disorder often goes unnoticed. It also, thus, does not qualify as clinical depression or bipolar disorder. The general symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder are:

1. Frequent mood swings followed by a period of extreme happiness

2. Feeling of laziness or sluggishness

3. Loss of interest in day-to-day activities

4. Forgetfulness

Causes of Cyclothymic Disorder

The triggers for Cyclothymic Disorder are yet unknown. At present, researchers are working to find out the cause behind the illness. Genetics, stress, trauma, physical and mental abuse are the most probable causes of this type of disorder.

Treatment of Cyclothymic Disorder

People suffering from Cyclothymic Disorder are often left undiagnosed, which can cause complex mental health issues. Early treatment and prevention help the person to recover faster. The most common treatments available are:


Doctors often recommend medication such as antidepressants, anti-epileptic drugs and mood stabilizers to treat this condition.


Therapies such as ‘talk therapy’ are recommended to treat the disorder.

Is Psychotherapy the Best Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

In addition to medication, Psychotherapy (especially talk therapy) is a great treatment for long-term bipolar disorder. A psychotherapist is trained to not just diagnose the disorder, but also to motivate the patient to avail treatment. People with bipolar disorder may not feel that something is wrong with them, even though their close friends and family may recognize the sudden changes due to onset of the disorder. Lack of proper treatment could lead to long-term damage for the patient.

Living with bipolar disorder is hard for both the individual and theirs kin. Although people suffering from this disorder have to undergo treatment for the entirety of their lives along with which constant support from family and friends can do wonders. It is imperative to lead a healthy lifestyle, stay away from alcohol and drugs, and of course, adopt a healthy regime of exercise and meditation.

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