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Types of Bipolar Disorder

Updated on January 7, 2011

Did you know that there are several different types of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a chronic condition that affects over 5.7 million Americans, or 2.6% of the population. This mental illness is characterized by periods of mania and depression, and is usually treated with a combination of counseling and prescription drugs.  Occasionally, other treatments such as ECT and light therapy are used.

Although all types of Bipolar Disorder have highs and lows, the intensity and frequency of which they are experienced varies widely. A brief explanation of the various types of Bipolar Disorder can be found below.

Bipolar 1 Disorder

Bipolar 1 is the most common type of Bipolar Disorder. This diagnosis is given to Bipolar individuals who have experienced at least one severe manic episode, as well as periods of depression.

In addition to being the most common type of Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar 1 is also believed to be the most treatable. The main medications used for Bipolar 1 are stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

Bipolar 2 Disorder

Bipolar 2 is the most common type of Bipolar Disorder after Bipolar 1. It is similar to Bipolar 1; however, people with this type of Bipolar have experienced hypomania rather than one severe episode of mania. Hypomania is a milder form of mania.

Bipolar 2 is usually treated with medications or counseling.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymia is a mild mood disorder that affects 0.4% to 1% of the U.S. People with cyclothymia experience mild depression and hypomania, as opposed to the severe episodes associated with other types of Bipolar Disorder.

Many patients opt not to be treated with medication for cyclothymia; when they do, mood stabilizers are usually prescribed.  Cyclothymia can progress into severe forms of Bipolar Disorder.

Mixed Bipolar Disorder

Mixed Bipolar Disorder is a type of Bipolar that is often difficult for individuals without mood disorders to understand. Mixed Bipolar is characterized by episodes of mania and depression that occur simultaneously; individuals experience happiness and sadness at the same time.

There is a higher risk of suicide for patients with Mixed Bipolar Disorder than patients with other mental illnesses. The main medications used include mood stabilizers and antipyschotics; Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is used when medication is not effective.

Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder refers to patients diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder who experience 4 or more episodes of mania or depression in a 12 month period.  Some patients experience multiple episodes in the same week or day.

Mood stabilizers are often used to treat Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder; antidepressants are usually avoided, as they can cause manic episodes.  Patients with Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder are hospitalized more often than patients with other types of Bipolar Disorder.

Do you have Bipolar Disorder?

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    • Hendrika profile image

      Hendrika 3 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I have Bipolar and the doctors call it Bipolar 2 but it is more Rapid-Cycling Bipolar. It is interesting to think how many people suffer with this illness. It does not seem as if anything really helps, not for me anyway, I'm on medication, I've had therapy but i still feel horrible and I am not too sure If it is even worth taking the meds! It is killing me financial as my medical aid only pays half of it.

    • profile image

      Psychologist 6 years ago

      Bipolar Disorder is tragically over diagnosed. If you are reading this and think you are bipolar, I would recommend asking your therapist about a similar disorder called borderline personality disorder. The two sometimes go together or are misdiagnosed as the other.

    • Sunnyglitter profile image

      Sunnyglitter 6 years ago from Cyberspace

      Amber, how did the psychiatrist go?

      I have Bipolar Disorder, and I beat myself up over things and think about them nonstop as well. One small event can haunt me for days. Major events cause extreme pain and sadness. It's normal if you have Bipolar or Anxiety.

      Have you tried group therapy? That worked better for me than any medication or individual session. If you have good insurance, it will probably be free at your local psychiatric hospital.

      Try not to be scared. I have been where you are, and it will get better. However, it will not get better on it's own. You have to figure out the plan that works best for managing your Bipolar and Anxiety, whether it's medication, private counseling, group counseling, or all of the above.

      Some advice until you find a medication or other treatment plan that works well for you: watch what you eat. Caffeine can trigger mania, and sugar can do the same thing. I wrote an article called Facts on Bipolar Disorder, and it mentions some foods that will help:

      I'm sorry that you're going through this. I know how scary mental illness can be. I'm glad your husband is supportive. My boyfriend freaks out when I cry, and his mother makes fun of me for it. I have seen texts between her and my boyfriend where she encourages him to take our son and leave me before my son "turns out like" me and my daughter.

    • amber112483 profile image

      amber112483 6 years ago from florida

      Thursday night I had the worse panic attack I have ever had in my life, I was able to claim down at therapy which got me through the night but yesterday the anxiety got so bad to where I got panic attacks and I called every psychiatrist within a 45 mile radius to see me ASAP. My regular doctor was only able to give me xanax to hold me over. Until I get fully evaluated. I want to get on medicine to make me better but I want to forgive myself for what I did to my husband and I think the guilt is killing more and more. I know, I am lucky since he forgave me but I love him and I am so sorry for him but it is really killing me. I hope these feelings go away. My therapist said she also can’t help me fully until I am medicated. So, I go to the therapist Monday morning then the psychiatrist Monday afternoon my husband is willing to go to the therapist not the psychiatrist. I am just so scared

      Is it normal that I keep racking my brain on everything I have ever done and thinking why the hell would I do that? Which makes my attacks worse? I think it is part of one of my rants when I am having an episode. I remember having one when I was in high school but I don’t remember how I over came it and why I am so weak now. I am really thankful for you. My husband was been wonderful but he doesn’t understand mental health issues.