Types of bipolar disorder

Types of bipolar disorder and their symptoms

Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive disorder is a disorder that causes abnormal changes in a person’s mood, energy, activity levels, and ability to carry out activities of daily living. There are 4 basic types of bipolar disorder, all of which have these unusual changes, ranging from periods of excessive mood, euphoria, and energy (manic episodes) to periods in which the person is very sad (depressive periods). When manic periods are not very severe, they are called hypomanic episodes. In this Psychologyorg article, we will talk about the different types of bipolar disorder that exist.

Types of bipolar disorder

We can differentiate between the following types of bipolar disorder:

  1. Bipolar Type I: Explained by manic attacks that last at least 7 days or by manic signs that are so intense that the person requires clinical treatment. Normally, depressive episodes last about 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed characteristics (depressive and manic symptoms) can also occur.
  2. Bipolar type II is defined by depressive and hypomanic episodes, but in a more advanced state than in type I.
  3. Cyclothymic: Defined by multiple periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for a hypomanic-depressive episode.
  4. Unspecified and other related disorders: these would be bipolar symptoms that do not correspond to the categories described above.

Bipolar disorder: symptoms

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience terms of extreme emotions, disparities in sleep patterns and activity levels, and distinctive conduct. These episodes are very different from the typical mood and behaviors in a person. Changes in energy, activity, and sleep correspond with changes in mood.

Sometimes a mood episode includes both manic and depressive symptoms, known as a mixed episode. The person may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while at the same time feeling full of energy.

Manic episode symptoms

  • Excessive energy.
  • High activity levels.
  • Be nervous.
  • Talking very quickly on different topics, changing the subject very quickly.
  • Increased irritability, agitation, and sensitivity.
  • Feeling that thoughts are going very fast.
  • Thinking that they can do many things at the same time.
  • Risk behaviors: spending a large amount of money, reckless sexual relations…

depressive episode symptoms

  • Sadness, low mood, feeling of emptiness…
  • Low energy, low activity levels.
  • A problem in sleeping, sleeping too short or too much.
  • They feel that there is nothing that amuses them, they feel worried or empty.
  • Trouble concentrating, and forgetting things to do.
  • Eating problems: increased or decreased intake.
  • They think about death and suicide.

Bipolar disorder can occur in a milder way, that is, with less sudden changes in mood. During a hypomanic episode, the person can feel great, be very productive, and function very well. You feel like nothing is wrong, but your family and friends may notice unusual changes that may indicate bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania can develop mania or depression.

Types of bipolar

What makes bipolar disorder different from mood swings?

The three criteria that differentiate bipolar disorder from mood swings that we can consider as “normal” are:

  1. Intensity: The mood swings that constitute bipolar disorder are more severe and have more intensity than mood swings that are considered normal.
  2. Duration: a mood change lasts approximately a few days, while a manic or depressive episode can last for months and is characterized by sudden changes.
  3. Alteration of the person’s life: the changes that characterize bipolar disorder usually produce major alterations in the person’s life (not going to work, stopping daily activities…). On the other hand, changes in mood considered normal do not prevent the person from carrying out the usual activities in their day-to-day.

Bipolarity: treatment

Treatment can help people with more severe symptoms gain better control over mood swings and other bipolar symptoms. Effective treatment includes medication and psychotherapy. Bipolar disorder is a chronic disorder, and episodes of mania and depression recur over time. Between these episodes, many people do not have any symptoms, although others show persistent symptoms. In the long term, continuous treatment helps control these symptoms.


There are different types of medication that can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. A person may need to try different types of psychiatric drugs before finding the one that is right for them.

The psychoactive drugs that are mainly used in bipolar disorder are mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants.


In numerous cases, psychotherapy is combined with psychopharmacological treatment, obtaining good results. During therapy, the person can talk about the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are causing problems in their life. Therapy can help understand and manage any problems that disrupt normal functioning in life. Some therapies used in bipolar disorder are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Focuses on identifying and changing thought patterns that accompany mood swings and stress-reducing behaviors.
  • Family-centered therapy: focused on family relationships and generating a supportive context at home.
  • Interpersonal therapy: focuses on relationships and how to reduce the tensions that the disorder produces.
  • Social Rhythm Therapy: Helps develop and maintain a “normal” sleep routine, and well-defined daily routines.
  • Psychoeducation: both for the bipolar person and for their family. It consists of knowing how to identify the early symptoms of episodes, establishing routines, etc.
Types of bipolar

Read Also: Do antidepressants block emotions? Psychologyorg


Q1: What are the different types of bipolar disorder?

A: The primary types of bipolar disorder include Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder. These types differ based on the severity and duration of mood episodes experienced.

Q2: What is the main difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder?

A: The main difference lies in the severity of the manic episodes. Bipolar I Disorder involves full-blown manic episodes, whereas Bipolar II Disorder involves hypomanic episodes, which are less severe but still distinct from normal behavior.

Q3: What are manic episodes?

A: Manic episodes are characterized by an intensely elevated mood, increased energy levels, and impulsive or risky behavior. Individuals may experience a decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, and grandiosity during these episodes.

Q4: What are depressive episodes?

A: Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder involve persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities. People may experience differences in appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels.

Q5: What is Cyclothymic Disorder?

A: Cyclothymic Disorder is a milder form of bipolar disorder, where individuals experience numerous periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms that do not meet the full criteria for a major mood episode.

Q6: Can bipolar disorder be diagnosed in children or adolescents?

A: Yes, bipolar disorder can be diagnosed in children and adolescents. However, the presentation and symptoms may differ from those seen in adults.

Q7: Is bipolar disorder a lifelong condition?

A: Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that typically requires ongoing management and treatment. With good care, people with bipolar disorder can show fulfilling energies.

Q8: Are there any other subtypes or variations of bipolar disorder?

A: Apart from the primary types mentioned above, there are other subtypes and variations of bipolar disorder, such as rapid-cycling bipolar disorder and mixed features specifier, which involve more frequent mood shifts or the coexistence of depressive and manic symptoms within the same episode.

If you want to read more articles similar to Types of bipolar disorder and its symptoms, we recommend that you enter our Mental Disorders category.

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