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How Many Types of Bipolar Disorder Are There?

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Maybe your friend or family member recently shared that they’re bipolar. So what does that mean? If you start looking things up on Google, you may soon discover that there are different kinds of bipolar disorder. But exactly how many types of bipolar disorder are there? Let’s find out.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

If we’re honest, we all have mood swings from time to time. While this is a normal experience as we navigate the highs and lows that life brings us, for those with bipolar disorder, the mood swings they go through are something else entirely. So when you hear someone share that they have bipolar disorder, what is it exactly?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that can cause extreme changes in mood, thinking, and behavior. Someone with bipolar disorder will shift from periods of mania (highs) to periods of depression (lows). These intense mood episodes can last for days or even weeks in some cases. 

When someone experiences a manic episode, they can become active and energized, sometimes with painful or embarrassing consequences like spending too much money or engaging in regrettable behavior, shares Harvard Health Publishing. They may also be more easily irritated, less aware of the consequences of their actions, and struggle with sleeping normally. 

Sometimes occurring more often than mania, a depressive episode is usually a more severe, debilitating form of depression. During these episodes, someone may have very low energy, as well as struggle with intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and guilt. It can be easy to struggle with concentrating, making decisions, or even getting out of bed, which impacts personal and work responsibilities. For some people, these depressive episodes can last two weeks or more. 

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

As you can already tell, bipolar disorder is a serious mental health disorder. In fact, nearly 6 million people from the United States have bipolar disorder, shares the University of Michigan Medicine. Even so, the cause of bipolar disorder can vary depending on the person, and every person’s experience with the condition will be different from someone else’s. In other words, there’s no single determining cause of bipolar disorder. 

With that said, there are typically a few factors that can contribute to developing bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If there’s a family history of bipolar disorder, then genetics could play a factor, though it’s not always guaranteed. A stressful life event, as well as a person’s ability to manage stress, can trigger a manic or depressive episode. Even the physical structure and function of our brains have led scientists to connect brain size and structure activation to bipolar disorder. 

How Many Types of Bipolar Disorder Are There?

With bipolar disorder’s experience varying from person to person, the question, “how many types of bipolar disorder are there?” is easy to ask. And as you may have guessed, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward.

The 3 Most Common Bipolar Disorder Types (Plus One More)

Of the different types of bipolar disorder, there are three that are the most common. And then there’s a fourth among the bipolar disorder types that gets diagnosed when someone’s condition doesn’t fit with the others. These four include:

Bipolar I

The most common type, Bipolar I is characterized by manic episodes that last seven days or more that are so severe they may need hospitalization. This is then followed by depressive episodes that last at least two weeks. People with Bipolar I may find it hard to live normal lives without proper treatment for their condition. 

Bipolar II

People with Bipolar II will have regular depressive episodes, and sometimes these can last longer and be more severe than Bipolar I. However, those with Bipolar II will alternatively experience hypomanic episodes, which are milder than the manic episodes associated with Bipolar I. 

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Cyclothymic Disorder (also known as Cyclothymia) consists of consistent depressive and hypomanic episodes that don’t follow a particular pattern. This form of bipolar disorder is less severe than Bipolar I or Bipolar II, but it can still make a significant impact on a person’s life. 

Unspecified or Other Specified Bipolar

Sometimes a person’s bipolar disorder diagnosis doesn’t meet the criteria of any of the three above. As a result, some people may have Unspecified or Other Specified Bipolar. While the symptoms of this type are not as debilitating as the other three, the mood swings are still more significant than normal. 

3 Variations to the Different Kinds of Bipolar Disorder

When someone is diagnosed with one of the different kinds of bipolar disorder, sometimes they experience an additional variation on top of their standard diagnosis. These variations can include:

  • Rapid Cycling Bipolar: Usually temporary (though not always), Rapid Cycling Bipolar is characterized by having four or more mood episodes within 12 months. Sometimes Ultra-Rapid Cycling can also occur, which is four or more mood episodes within one month. 
  • Bipolar With Mixed Features: Bipolar with Mixed Features means someone will experience BOTH depressive and manic symptoms in the same mood episode. 
  • Bipolar With Seasonal Features: People who have Bipolar with Seasonal Features will often get depressive episodes in the fall or winter and manic episodes in the spring or summer.  

Treating the Bipolar Disorder Types

While bipolar disorder can be severe and debilitating, people who have it can also lead an enjoyable, fulfilling life when they learn how to manage their condition in a healthy way. Often this looks like seeking bipolar disorder treatment provided by mental health professionals. 

At Integrative Life Center here in Nashville, TN, our caring, expert team provides comprehensive mental health treatment for a variety of conditions, including bipolar disorder. That means we personalize our care to meet your individual needs, as well as offer dual diagnosis treatment options for co-occurring disorders like drug or alcohol addiction. By partnering with us, you or your loved one can achieve the healthy life you deserve, even with bipolar disorder. Contact us today to get started. 

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