The Three Types Of Bipolar Disorder

Presented by BetterHelp.

Though bipolar disorder affects millions of people, there are still quite a few misconceptions and outdated stereotypes about the disorder. One of the major misunderstandings about this condition is that all people experience it the same way. However, what most people don’t realize is that there are three different forms of bipolar disorder, all with varying mood cycles and severity of symptoms. 

When it comes to mental health, knowledge is power. Therefore, it is crucial that more people understand bipolar disorder and the many ways it manifests. This article will introduce you to the three main types of bipolar disorder and help you distinguish them. 

What Does Bipolar Disorder Look Like?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by extreme changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. There are two primary emotional states that people with this disorder experience. 

The first is mania which is an episode of extreme emotional highs. During this period, a person with bipolar disorder may experience euphoria, extreme self-confidence, and more energy than usual. This extra energy may make it difficult to focus or get a normal amount of sleep. 

Though mania can be perceived as the period where a person with bipolar disorder experiences good moods, mania may cause more problems than a depressive episode. For example, a manic episode may result in the person being irritable rather than happy. Furthermore, many people with bipolar disorder struggle to control their thoughts and behaviors during these episodes. This can result in them conducting risky behavior, such as making large purchases they cannot afford. Severe cases may also experience delusions or hallucinations. 

People with this disorder also commonly experience depressive episodes. These are the opposing of mania and are characterized by extreme lows. During this time, a person with bipolar disorder may experience thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and despair and have little energy. Some people struggle to get out of bed and accomplish their responsibilities. Other symptoms include apathy, fatigue, pessimism, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts. 

For further general reading on bipolar disorder, you can find more resources at the link below:

For now, let’s delve into the three major types of this disorder. 

What Are The Three Types Of Bipolar Disorder

Most people don’t realize that bipolar disorder can be split into three different types. Though they all have similar symptoms of mania and depression, they are categorized by how frequently these mood cycles occur. Read on to learn the difference between these three types of bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is defined by the presence of at least one manic episode that lasts at least one week. For the episode to be considered manic, it must include at least three of the symptoms that were listed above. 

People with this condition may also experience major depressive episodes, which may be more frequent than manic episodes and last at least two weeks. The episodes are considered depressive if they have five of the abovementioned symptoms. 

Bipolar II Disorder

People with bipolar II disorder experience manic episodes that are not as severe as those with bipolar I disorder. These are called hypomanic episodes because they are not always severe enough to disrupt life or require hospitalization. A person must experience at least one hypomanic episode to be diagnosed with this form of bipolar disorder. 

Furthermore, while someone with bipolar I disorder may or may not experience a major depressive episode, those with bipolar II disorder definitely do. This episode lasts about two weeks and includes at least five of the above symptoms. 

Because hypomania is not usually severe, many people with bipolar II disorder will seek treatment for their depressive episodes since they are much more painful. Hypomania may feel like an extra boost of energy that can be utilized positively (such as increased work or school performance). Many patients are misdiagnosed with depression and may take a while to discover they are actually living with bipolar disorder. 


Cyclothymia is a much more mild form of bipolar disorder. A person with this condition experiences frequent cycling of mania and depression, though the symptoms are far less severe. These episodes do not follow the same typical schedules of the previous two disorders and may just feel like consistent cycling between two mood extremes. 

For someone to be diagnosed with this condition, they must have experienced symptoms of hypomania and depression for at least two years, the symptoms must occur for at least half of that time, and normal periods (without major mood swings) cannot have lasted for more than two months. 

Other “Types” of Bipolar Disorder

In some cases, people may experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder but not in the same patterns as mentioned with these three types. For example, some people may have more than a few cycles of mania or major depression throughout a year or experience highs and lows every few days or even every few hours. Therefore, while most people with bipolar disorder fit into the three categories, not everyone does. 

One example of this is people who experience rapid cycling. This occurs when someone experiences these mood changes frequently, often without any normal or stable period in between. 

Another example is people who experience mixed states. As the name suggests, people experiencing these states will show symptoms of both mania and depression simultaneously or in rapid succession.

Therefore, after reading this section, it should be clear that bipolar disorder does not come in one form. As with many mental health conditions, there are many flavors and forms of bipolar disorder, making every patient’s experience unique.  

Final Thoughts On Bipolar Disorder

If, after reading this, you believe that you have bipolar disorder, know that you are not alone and that help is available. Millions of people live with bipolar disorder in one form or another and find a treatment that helps them live normal lives. Seek out a mental health professional today to determine what form of bipolar disorder you may have and to start treatment. 

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