There are several types of bipolar disorder. Each kind is defined by the length, frequency, and pattern of episodes of mania and depression. Mood swings that come with bipolar disorder are usually more severe than ordinary mood swings and symptoms can last weeks or months, severely disrupting a person’s life. For example, depression can make a person unable to get out of bed or go to work or mania can cause a person to go for days without sleep.

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I is characterized by one or more episodes of mania or mixed episodes (which is when you experience symptoms of both mania and depression).

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is diagnosed after one or more major depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania, with possible periods of level mood between episodes.

The highs in bipolar II, called hypomanias, are not as high as those in bipolar I (manias). Bipolar II disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as major depression if episodes of hypomania go unrecognized or unreported. If you have recurring depressions that go away periodically and then return, ask yourself if you also have:

  • Had periods (lasting four or more days) when your mood was especially energetic or irritable?
  • Were you:
    • Feeling abnormally self-confident or social?
    • Needing less sleep or more energetic?
    • Unusually talkative or hyper?
    • Irritable or quick to anger?
    • Thinking faster than usual?
    • More easily distracted/having trouble concentrating?
    • More goal-directed or productive at work, school or home?
    • More involved in pleasurable activities, such as spending or sex?
  • Did you feel or did others say that you were doing or saying things that were unusual, abnormal or not like your usual self?

If so, talk to your health care provider about these energetic episodes, and find out if they might be hypomania. Getting a correct diagnosis of bipolar II disorder can help you find treatment that may also help lift your depression.

Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)

Bipolar disorder that does not follow a particular pattern (for example, recurring episodes of hypomania episodes without depressive symptoms, or very rapid swings between some symptoms of mania and some symptoms of depression) is called bipolar disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS).

Cyclothymia

Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder characterized by several episodes of hypomania and less severe episodes of depression that alternate for at least two years. The severity of this illness may change over time.

Rapid Cycling

Bipolar disorder with rapid cycling is diagnosed when a person experiences four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, or depressive episodes in any 12-month period. Rapid cycling can occur with any type of bipolar disorder, and may be a temporary condition for some people.