Which Type of Bipolar Disorder Do I Have?
If you are reading this article, you might be skeptical if you are having symptoms of bipolar disorder. We will outline the types of bipolar disorders and if you find yourself meeting the symptoms, it would be best to contact Achieve Medical Center or your regular medical provider for a psychiatric evaluation. There are several resources available to help you navigate this time and help you better understand your emotions.
There are three types of bipolar disorder and all three involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up “ to intensely “down” emotions. When one experiences elated, irritable, or energized behavior, this is known as a manic episode. When one experiences very sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods, this is known as a depressive episode.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar I is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. It’s also possible for episodes to include mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms at the same time). People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion ranging from mania to depression, changes in energy and activity levels, and uncharacteristic or reckless behavior. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.” During a mood episode, an individual acts noticeably differently from how they typically do. The symptoms last every day for most of the day. Episodes may also last for longer periods, such as several days or weeks.
Bipolar II is marked by a similar pattern of mood episodes but does not include manic episodes that are typical of Bipolar I. Those with Bipolar II may experience hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania. Unlike a manic episode, which can cause a person to feel “high” or “wired,” decreased need for sleep or loss of appetite, as well as irritability and reckless behavior, hypomanic episode is less extreme and a person may seem more in control and not appear to be “off the rails.” Because a hypomanic episode is more subtle than a manic episode, the person with Bipolar II may not notice that anything is wrong. However, friends and family may recognize these shifts between depressive and hypomanic episodes. If left untreated, those with Bipolar II can develop severe mania or depression.
Cyclothymic Disorder is less recognized than Bipolar Disorder I and II but falls into the same category. NIMH defines Cyclothymic Disorder by periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years. Although Cyclothymic Disorder is similar, it does not meet the diagnostic requirements for hypomanic and depressive episodes for Bipolar Disorder I and II.
We can think about the three disorders like they are inside of a tunnel. With Bipolar I, the depressive episodes are so severe that they burst through the floor of the tunnel, and the manic episodes are so severe that they burst through the roof of the tunnel. The walls of the tunnel are completely damaged by Bipolar I. With Bipolar II, the depressive episodes burst through the floor of the tunnel, but the hypomanic episodes stay hovering at the roof of the tunnel, not quite busting through. WIth Cyclothymic Disorder, the depressive and hypomanic episodes linger at the top and bottom of the tunnel, never breaking through and becoming full-blown episodes.
Sometimes, a person can experience psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, during a severe episode of mania or depression. These psychotic symptoms often reflect the mood of the manic or depressive episode. For example, during a manic episode, a person may be deliriously happy and have unrealistic beliefs, like being famous, rich, or having special powers. Another example would be someone having psychotic symptoms during a depressive episode that may falsely believe they are homeless and broke, have committed a crime, or have a serious illness. Because of these psychotic symptoms, sometimes those with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia.
While it can be difficult, people with bipolar disorder can lead healthy and active lives with a proper diagnosis and treatment. The first step is talking to a doctor or other licensed mental health professional. The health care provider can complete a physical exam and order tests to rule out other conditions. Because bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, a diagnosis is usually based on a combination of a person’s symptoms, personal history, experiences, and family history.
Mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications are often used to treat bipolar disorders and treatment plans may also include medications that target sleep or anxiety. Medication, paired with therapy has been effective for many people. Effective therapies include psychotherapy, which includes a variety of treatment techniques designed to help identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It can also provide support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families.
Another treatment intervention is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which we offer at Achieve Medical Center. TMS is a non-invasive form of brain stimulation that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. Research shows that TMS is helpful for those with depression, and Bipolar disorders are still under study.
Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic Disorders are well researched and there are several treatment options available. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of one of these disorders, please seek help. If you need someone to talk to or are experiencing an immediate crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-8255. If you are looking for mental health services in the Southern California, Oregon, or Alaskan regions, Achieve Medical Center is happy to assist you on your healing journey. We are a team that is determined to fight for you and your healing and our treatment plans are tailored to your specific individual needs. We believe in treating the entire person holistically--both mentally and physically. Our team is compassionate and motivated to get you back on track to living your best life. To schedule a free consultation about our mental health services, call Achieve Medical Center today at (619) 375-3977.