An estimated 4.4% of adults have bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime. Generally speaking, this brain disorder describes dramatic emotional highs and lows. However, they can vary in duration and intensity based on the type of bipolar disorder the person develops.
Our team at Compass Mental Health & Wellness offers compassionate, integrated psychiatric and family medical services to people of all ages in North Houston. If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, here’s what you should know about the different types of this condition.
Bipolar disorder basics
As we mentioned above, bipolar disorder typically causes intense emotional states. Most people have ups and downs from time to time, but the mood fluctuations usually only last hours. However, if you have bipolar disorder, your mood changes can last for days.
When we use the general term “bipolar disorder,” we’re talking about a mood disorder category. This condition also has subtypes, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Each bipolar subtype comes with its own distinct characteristics, but they share similarities as well.
To start, 80-90% of people with bipolar disorder have a relative with the condition or depression, and it’s a lifelong condition typically diagnosed in the teen years or early 20s. It’s also common for environmental factors — such as disrupted sleep, stress, and alcohol or drug use — to trigger bipolar disorder episodes in susceptible people.
While the exact causes of bipolar disorder are unclear, experts believe it’s due to dysregulated brain activity.
Signs of bipolar disorder
All types of bipolar disorder can include unpredictable changes in behavior and mood, specifically mania, hypomania, and major depressive episodes.
Mania is a mood disturbance that results in a jump in energy, both mentally and physically, and it can last for a week or more. Mania often causes noticeable changes and problems in daily life, and it can even lead to psychosis, or a break from reality, requiring hospitalization.
Signs of mania include:
- Less need for sleep
- Faster speech
- Disorganized thinking or uncontrollable racing thoughts
- Distractibility or difficulty staying on topic
- Increased activity, such as working on several projects at one time
- Increased risky behavior, such as spending too much
Hypomania is basically a milder form of mania. With hypomania, your energy level may be higher than normal, but not as extreme as it is with mania. Hypomania can last for a few days or longer.
Major depressive episodes usually last at least two weeks and often include changes in sleep or appetite, feelings of worthlessness, intense sadness or despair, loss of interest in things, and difficulty concentrating. It’s also possible to have thoughts of death or suicide.
The different types of bipolar disorder
The subtypes of bipolar disorder do not refer to more milder forms of the condition. Instead, they describe specific symptoms.
Bipolar I disorder
This form involves at least one manic episode, possibly by a major depressive or hypomanic episode before or after.
People with bipolar I often have other mental health conditions as well, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. They also have a much higher risk of suicide than the general population.
Bipolar II disorder
If you have bipolar II disorder, you have experienced at least one hypomanic episode and at least a single major depressive episode, but no manic episodes.
Cyclothymic disorder describes having many periods with depressive symptoms (but not major depression) and hypomania symptoms for one year or more in children and teens and at least two years in adults.
Treating bipolar disorder
As you can see, each bipolar disorder subtype can significantly impact your life, but proper treatment can help. After diagnosing your mood disorder and subtype, we can create a personalized treatment strategy to stabilize your mood and improve your quality of life.
Common treatments for bipolar disorder include:
- Mindfulness techniques
- Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise
- Sleep analysis
We also work closely with people in our care to ensure they learn healthy ways of processing their feelings.