More than 2.5% of adults in the U.S. are affected by bipolar disorder; however, not everyone is diagnosed with the same type. There are different types of bipolar disorder which are categorized based on symptoms, pattern, frequency, and length of episodes. Distinguishing the type of bipolar disorder a person has allows doctors to make a more accurate diagnosis and provide the best treatment possible.
There are four main types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder, also referred to as maniac depression, is considered the most severe form of the condition. In order for a diagnosis to be made, a person must show symptoms of both mania and depression in a single day. The symptoms should occur for a minimum of seven days and include extreme depression. In severe cases of bipolar disorder I, hospitalization may be necessary.
Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II disorder usually causes a less severe form of mania labeled as hypomania. Symptoms associated with hypomania are milder than mania; in fact, they often go unnoticed by those experiencing an episode. Some people with bipolar II disorder lead and active lifestyle and may not notice abnormal behavior, even when others point it out. Depression is the most common complaint among those with bipolar II disorder.
Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder; it is characterized by multiple episodes of hypomania and mild depression within a period of two years or more. Additional symptoms related to cyclothymic disorder include; mood swings, emotional instability, fatigue, and unpredictable behavior.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
Rapid-cycling can affect people with any type of bipolar disorder, but it is more prevalent in bipolar II disorder. People with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder experience more than four episodes of hypomania, mania, extreme depression, and mixed mania in a year. The condition is often referred to as an “emotional roller coaster” by patients, as it causes rapid mood changes. Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder can make a person feel ecstatic one day, then depressed or angry the next. The disorder can also cause mood swings within a 2 to 4 hour time frame.
BP-NOS (Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified)
Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified is the diagnosis made in people with bipolar symptoms that don’t meet the standards for a certain type of bipolar disorder. Those with BP-NOS only have some of the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder and usually have short episodes.