Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental health condition characterized by periods of depression and mania. While some people assume bipolar disorder just involves mood swings, the reality is there are multiple types of bipolar disorder each with their own specific symptoms and characteristics.
Here at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates, we are committed to helping people with bipolar disorder understand their condition in order to best manage their symptoms. Our team, led by Dr. Mohammad Munir, has years of experience providing comprehensive psychiatric and psychological care to patients in the greater Boston area.
Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, here’s what you need to know about its varying types and signs.
Overview of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder causes extreme swings in mood and energy levels. While it’s normal to have ups and downs, the shifts in mood that occur with bipolar disorder can have serious consequences and be very disruptive without treatment.
Generally, the two main types of mood shifts that occur in bipolar disorder are called depression and mania.
During a depressive period, you might feel especially sad, pessimistic, and hopeless. You may even experience suicidal thoughts during depressive periods.
Depressive periods can also affect energy levels and concentration, leaving you feeling fatigued and not being able to sleep. Often, your work and school performance may suffer as you lose interest in activities and struggle to concentrate and remember things.
Mania, on the other hand, involves elevated mood and energy levels. You may feel ecstatic, excitable, and overjoyed. Other people may notice you have lots of energy, speak quickly, and eat and sleep less often.
While this may sound a good thing, mania often comes with severe consequences. Mania may cause you to take risks or do dangerous things that you would not normally do, such as binge drink, take drugs, or spend lots of money.
While most types of bipolar disorder involve shifting between episodes of high and low mood, there are three different types of bipolar disorder characterized by the intensity of the episodes and the frequency of these shifts.
Bipolar I disorder
When people think of bipolar disorder, they’re usually thinking of bipolar I disorder which has the most extreme mood shifts. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by having defined episodes of both mania and depression. Depressive episodes are defined as a period of sadness, hopelessness, and/or a loss of interest lasting at least two weeks.
Manic episodes are a period lasting at least a week during which you experience at least three of the following behavioral changes occur:
- An exaggerated sense of self
- Sleeping less
- Talking quickly, loudly, or a lot more than usual
- Easily distractible
- Doing many activities as once
- Increased risky behavior
- Uncontrollable racing thoughts or jumping around topics and ideas
Usually, people with bipolar I disorder experience numerous periods of mania and depression over the course of a year, sometimes with periods of “normal mood” in between.
Bipolar II disorder
While many people associate manic episodes with bipolar disorder, the fact is that some types of bipolar disorder don’t involve full-blown manic episodes. If you have bipolar II disorder, you experience depressive episodes but rather than experiencing mania, you experience something called hypomania.
Hypomania is similar to mania, but with less severe symptoms and may last as little as four days. You may still feel an elevated mood and increased energy, but are less likely to take major risks or be noticeably more talkative and distractible.
Cyclothymic disorder involves similar ups and downs to bipolar I and bipolar II disorder, but the episodes are less severe. To be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, you have periods of hypomania and depression over at least a two-year period.
Cyclothymic disorder can be harder to diagnose because many people don’t seek treatment as their episodes may be less extreme than other types of bipolar disorder. However, it can eventually develop into full-blown bipolar disorder if left untreated.
If you’ve been feeling like your moods are all over the place or have noticed drastic shifts in the moods of your loved ones, Boston Neurobehavioral can help. With accurate diagnosis, all three types of bipolar disorder can respond well to treatments such as psychotherapy and psychiatric medicine. To find out more about your type of bipolar disorder, call any of our conveniently located locations throughout the Boston area, or request an appointment online.