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Comparing and Contrasting: The 4 Types of Bipolar Disorder

a person shows faces of anger and depression which are common across types of bipolar

Extreme highs and lows often interrupt the daily lives of people with bipolar disorder. That’s how many people discuss and perceive the condition, often thinking there is no normalcy, that every feeling and emotion is extreme. However, bipolar disorder is more complex than alternating happy and sad moods. There are four major types of bipolar disorder, which can also lead to co-occurring substance use disorders.

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder, our team at Northpoint Recovery can help with bipolar disorder treatment and addiction treatment. Navigating the path to sobriety can be especially challenging when bipolar symptoms get in the way. Call us at 888.296.8976 today to find recovery help.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Most people with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings. These can go from manic highs to depressive lows, and they can last for days, weeks, or even months at a time. However, not everyone experiences their symptoms in the same way. Some people have more manic episodes than depressive episodes, while others may experience them equally.

There are four main types of bipolar disorder, each with its own unique set of symptoms:

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Unspecified bipolar disorder

Many factors can influence a bipolar diagnosis, including genetics, stressful events, and alcohol and drug abuse. People who live with bipolar disorder often are not diagnosed until their early 20s.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is characterized by at least one manic and one depressive episode. During a manic episode, people with bipolar I may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Euphoria or an exaggerated sense of well-being
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Genetic factors and family history
  • Stressful or traumatic events
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Manic episodes can last for weeks or months if left untreated. Once mania finally subsides, periods of extreme depression follow and can last even longer. Lithium is commonly prescribed for people with bipolar I disorder. It helps to balance the extreme highs and lows by stabilizing mood swings.

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is similar to bipolar I disorder but with less severe manic episodes, called hypomanic episodes. Depressive episodes still alternate with hypomanic ones; however, a person with bipolar II will not experience the full-blown mania associated with bipolar I.

A person with bipolar II disorder may also experience depressive episodes more frequently than bipolar I. The symptoms of a depressive episode may include:

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying
  • Anger or rage
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt or feelings of worthlessness

Hypomanic episodes associated with bipolar II disorder are not as severe as manic episodes and often go unnoticed. However, a person with bipolar II may still experience elevated moods, a less perceived need for sleep, and even reckless money spending.

Bipolar II Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a milder bipolar disorder. It is characterized by less severe hypomanic and depressive episodes that alternate over two years.

A person with cyclothymia may not meet the full criteria for either bipolar I or II disorder but still experiences chronic mood swings.

Cyclothymia is often treated with the same medications used to treat bipolar disorder. These include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

Unspecified bipolar disorder is a catch-all category for people who experience bipolar symptoms but do not fit neatly into any of the other categories.

A person with unspecified bipolar disorder may experience manic or depressive episodes of varying severity and length. The symptoms may also be less defined than those associated with other types of bipolar disorder.

Unspecified bipolar disorder is often treated with the same medications used to treat other types of bipolar disorder. These include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.

Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be managed with medication and therapy.

Medications used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Mood stabilizers are the most commonly prescribed type of medication for bipolar disorder. They help to even out mood swings and prevent manic and depressive episodes.

Therapy is another essential part of treatment for bipolar disorder. It can help people with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms to live a healthy and productive life.

Not managing bipolar symptoms can lead to substance abuse problems when people with bipolar turn to drugs or alcohol to try and cope with their emotions. Having a bipolar and substance abuse problem at the same time is called co-occurring disorders.

Coping with Bipolar Disorder


Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment at Northpoint Recovery

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, help is available. Treatment can make a big difference in managing the condition. Northpoint Recovery is a leading addiction treatment center specializing in treating co-occurring disorders.

Our experts will work with you to create a customized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. We offer a variety of therapies and medications that can help you manage your bipolar disorder and live a healthy life.

Don’t let bipolar disorder or substance abuse control your life. Call us today at 888.296.8976 to get started on the road to recovery.

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Comparing and Contrasting the 4 types of Bipolar Disorder