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Bipolar Disorder and Cyclothymia

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes dramatic changes in mood, emotions, and the ability to think clearly. Someone with bipolar disorder will experience alternating periods of mania and depression. These periods are far more intense and long-lasting than the ordinary ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ most people experience. They often disrupt daily life, making relationships, work, and school difficult. There are three major types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I Disorder is the type most people are familiar with.

The 3 Primary Types of Bipolar Disorder are:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder
  2. Bipolar II Disorder
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder

Bipolar I Disorder

Of the three major types of bipolar disorder, Bipolar I Disorder is the type most people are familiar with. Bipolar I Disorder is characterized by manic episodes which last at least a week. These instances are often so severe that hospitalization is necessary to stabilize the patient. A person experiencing mania will have racing thoughts and seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm. They may seem giddy or irrationally happy, tense and irritable, or a combination. They may experience feelings of grandiosity that can be considered delusional.

Anyone who knows a person with this form of bipolar disorder and has seen them in mania without medication can’t help but recognize the signs. For example, the person may go off on wild tangents or talk rapidly for hours about an elaborate and complex money-making scheme they’ve dreamed up. These periods of mania are separated by depressive episodes, which usually last two weeks or more. During the depressive periods, the person with bipolar disorder swings to the opposite end of the spectrum. Deep depression and ennui set in.

They are plagued by negative, pessimistic thinking and a profound lack of energy or will. It’s not unusual for someone in a depressive episode to refuse to leave the house for days or weeks or stay in bed for days.

But people with this type of bipolar disorder can live happy, healthy, productive lives with the proper treatment, and medication compliance is essential. In fact, when a person with this form of bipolar disorder runs into problems, it is almost always because they have not been taking their medication as prescribed.

Bipolar II Disorder

This bipolar subtype is lesser known and notoriously tricky to diagnose. Depressive episodes and hypomanic symptoms are a feature of Bipolar II as well, but patients do not experience the full-blown mania that Bipolar I patients do. Depressive episodes are typically less severe and may last much longer. The more subtle presentation of symptoms can make Bipolar II Disorder hard to diagnose. The symptoms of the manic phases are similar but far less pronounced in most people with this form of bipolar disorder. They can easily be dismissed as irrational exuberance or enthusiasm.

Partial Hospitalization treatment offers a real advantage for these patients, as it allows clinicians to observe and interact with them for longer versus conventional outpatient mental health treatment.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) is a less-known form of bipolar disorder and is somewhat rare. It is defined by hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms, which last for at least two years. These symptoms are also less severe than they appear in patients with Bipolar I Disorder. Because of the long periods and lesser severity of symptoms, Cyclothymic Disorder can be very difficult to detect and diagnose. Patients with this disorder may also experience long periods of feeling relatively “normal” with neither hypomanic nor depressive symptoms. While this makes living with Cyclothymic Disorder somewhat more straightforward than other types of bipolar disorder, it also makes it much harder to recognize, diagnose and treat effectively.

If you or someone you love could benefit from treatment for bipolar disorder, or you have questions about bipolar disorder or mental health care, contact us.


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