Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that affects about 2.8 percent of US adults in any given year. It causes extreme shifts in mood, productivity, and behavior, and is one of the most debilitating mental disorders.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by alternating episodes of mania (elevated mood, increased energy, and euphoria) and depression (sadness and low energy). The condition can cause significant disruptions in a person’s life and may lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Symptoms of Mania:
- Increased energy, restlessness, and excitement
- Racing thoughts or talking quickly
- Impulsivity (engaging in behaviors without thinking them through)
- Spending sprees
- Increased risk-taking behavior
- Poor judgment
- Grandiose thinking (believing oneself to be invincible)
- Agitation and irritability
Symptoms of Depression:
- Low mood/sadness
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating/making decisions
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Changes in appetite (either increase or decrease)
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is classified into different types depending on the severity and frequency of manic and depressive episodes. The most common subtypes are:
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I is characterized by episodes of mania that last at least one week and or are so severe that hospitalization is needed. Individuals with bipolar I may also experience periods of depression, which typically last for at least two weeks. However, a patient only needs to have experienced only one major manic episode to be diagnosed as having bipolar I disorder.
Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II is characterized by episodes of hypomania (a less severe form of mania) and major depression. Hypomania typically lasts for at least four days, and while it is less severe than mania, it can still cause significant impairment in a person’s life. To be diagnosed with bipolar II, a person must have experienced at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode.
Cyclothymic disorder is a milder form of bipolar disorder that involves less severe episodes of mania and depression. The person may experience mood swings that are less intense and may last for shorter periods. However, these mood swings can still interfere with daily functioning and may cause distress. The person may also experience periods of stability in between, but these are usually brief.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is a subtype of bipolar disorder where an individual experiences at least four episodes of mania/hypomania or depression in a year. These episodes may be rapid, with the person experiencing mood swings within days or weeks. Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is more common in women and may be triggered by stress or certain medications.
Mixed Features Bipolar Disorder
Mixed features bipolar disorder is a subtype of bipolar disorder in which an individual experiences symptoms of both mania and depression at the same time or in quick succession. They may feel agitated, irritable, and anxious, but also sad, hopeless, and unmotivated. This subtype of bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as a depressive disorder, as the person may spend more time in the depressive state.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) is a diagnosis given to people who have experienced symptoms similar to bipolar disorder but don’t meet the criteria for any other subtype.
Treating Bipolar Disorder
Treatment for bipolar disorder subtypes usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle modalities. Mood stabilizers, such as lithium and anticonvulsants, are often prescribed to help regulate mood swings. Antidepressants may also be prescribed for depression, but with caution, as they can sometimes trigger manic episodes.
Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoeducation, have also proven effective in managing bipolar disorder. Last but not least, lifestyle changes, such as exercise, a healthy diet, sleep hygiene, and stress reduction, can also help manage symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a complex mental illness that manifests in various ways. Understanding the different subtypes of bipolar disorder can help you get appropriate treatment and lead a healthier life. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications.