Unmasking The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder

If you think bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings and behavioral changes, you have got the basics right. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all problem, and there are several different types of bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar disorder is a severe and complicated mental health condition. Therefore, understanding the different types of bipolar disorder is your first line of defense. It gives you a much-needed heads-up about the treatment and professional help you need. 

As per the American Psychiatric Association (APA), there are five different types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar type 1
  • Bipolar type 2
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Other specified bipolar and related disorder
  • Unspecified bipolar and related disorder

Sounds like a lot?

Don’t worry; we have got your back. In this blog post, we will break down the various types of bipolar disorder and the symptoms associated with them. Let’s dive in.

But First, What Does Bipolar Disorder Look Like, Generally?

types of bipolar disorder

Mood swings are a normal part of being human. But when these mood swings become more apparent, sudden, exhausting, and start affecting your daily life, they are signs of something more dangerous.

Bipolar disorder is defined by extreme mood swings that significantly affect a person’s behavior and activity levels. These distinct patterns are called mood episodes. There are three major types of mood episodes:

1. Manic

During mania, the patient might feel extremely energetic and happy. They can also be unusually chatty, irritated, or angry. During this period, people have more energy than they can comprehend. These symptoms need to last for at least a week to be diagnosed. These are the symptoms of manic episodes:

2. Hypomanic

Less severe forms of mania are termed hypomania. The symptoms are similar to maniac symptoms but differ in the following ways:

  • are less severe than manic episodes,
  • have less impact on your life, and 
  • are present for four days continuously. 

3. Depressive

A depressive mood episode during bipolar disorder lasts for at least two weeks. During this period, you experience at least five major depressive symptoms that significantly affect your daily activities. These are the symptoms of depressive episodes:

  • Extreme sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness
  • A loss of pleasure in things you usually enjoy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Drastic weight loss or gain
  • Appetite changes

Understanding The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder

types of bipolar disorder

Now that you have an idea of what bipolar disorder is, it’s time to move to the next section – the various types of bipolar disorder.

As per APA, the various types of bipolar disorders are divided based on:

  • type, 
  • duration, and 
  • severity of a person’s mood episodes.

Let’s look at each of the types of bipolar disorder in detail.

1. Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar disorder 1 is the most severe form of bipolar disorder. A person is diagnosed with bipolar type 1 if they have had at least one manic episode in their life that lasted for seven days or more. It must be followed or preceded by a depressive or hypomanic episode. The symptoms of type 1 bipolar disorder usually require psychiatric hospitalization.

As per a Brazilian study, around 1.06% of individuals will be diagnosed with type 1 bipolar disorder at some in their lives. It usually starts during the late adolescent years and peaks between 20-29 years. 

Studies have shown that if left untreated, the severity of symptoms of Bipolar I can increase. As time passes, without the right treatment, manic episodes are more easily triggered. 

Here’s a list of common bipolar 1 symptoms:

2. Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed by the presence of a depressive episode that lasts for two weeks and a hypomanic episode that persists for four days or longer.  Individuals affected by bipolar type 2 don’t usually experience manic episodes that require hospitalization. 

Hypomanic symptoms differ from manic symptoms in terms of severity and duration. People with bipolar disorder type 2 only seek treatment options for their depressive episodes. In fact, the elevated moods associated with hypomania are usually considered productive. During diagnosis, bipolar II disorder is often misdiagnosed as a major depressive disorder as a result.

Signs of bipolar depression are:

  • Depressed mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of pleasure in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Restlessness
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Bipolar type 2 is wrongly referred to as a milder form of bipolar type 1. However, there are significant differences between bipolar 1 and 2. Even though people with bipolar disorder type 2 have milder symptoms, they tend to have symptoms more often than type 1. Longer episodes of bipolar depression can be debilitating and significantly affect a person’s ability to function efficiently. 

Additionally, people with bipolar II disorder are more at risk of eating disorders and substance abuse

3. Cyclothymic Disorder

People experiencing depressive and manic symptoms but not satisfying the criteria of bipolar type 1 and 2 are diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder. 

People with cyclothymic disorder mostly have shorter but much more frequent periods of depression and hypomania, followed by very small periods of normal mood. As the name suggests, such individuals keep cycling between periods of depression and hypomania.

As per StatPearls, around 0.4-1% of people might have the condition at some point. Other estimates even go up to 5%. People usually have symptoms of the condition for two years or more with less than two months of gaps in between.

Even though the mood disruptions in cyclothymic disorder might not be as severe as bipolar disorder type 1 and 2, it’s important to seek timely help and support. If left untreated, the symptoms can interfere with a person’s daily life and might even develop into bipolar type 1 or 2. 

4. Other Specified Bipolar and Related Disorders

This type of bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed when you have symptoms of the condition, but they don’t fully satisfy the diagnostic criteria for any of the types of bipolar disorder. 

These include the following conditions:

  • Depressive episodes with hypomanic symptoms lasting for less than four days. 
  • Hypomanic episodes without proper symptoms or depressive episodes.
  • Cyclothymic disorder symptoms that last for less than two years. 

5. Unspecified Bipolar And Related Disorder 

Unspecified bipolar disorder is similar to other specified bipolar disorder. During this condition, the mental healthcare provider does not have adequate information to give a proper diagnosis. 

Unspecified bipolar disorder is a diagnosis that leaves room for more interpretation. 

Additional Specifiers For Bipolar Disorder

As mentioned in the beginning, bipolar disorder is not a one-size-fits-all problem. No two individuals dealing with the condition have the exact same symptoms. 

Therefore, additional specifiers work as add-ons to your diagnosis. They provide more context to the types of bipolar disorder that you are dealing with. These include:

  • Anxious distress
  • Mixed features
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Seasonal patterns
  • Rapid cycling
  • Melancholic features

Misdiagnosis Of Bipolar Disorder

Among all the types of mental health conditions, bipolar disorder is perhaps one of the most misdiagnosed ones. Since the symptoms of the different types of bipolar disorder overlap, it’s difficult for a healthcare provider to identify what you are dealing with accurately.

Additionally, the signs of bipolar disorder are also similar to other mental and neurological disorders, including the following:

How Do I Know Which One Of The Types Of Bipolar Disorder I Have?

types of bipolar disorder

If you or your loved ones suspect having any of the types of bipolar disorder, it’s essential to reach out to your primary healthcare provider or a mental health specialist. 

Keeping a journal to track your symptoms is beneficial. Specific symptoms or information about your triggers can be helpful for a specialist. 

Seeing a specialist and getting a diagnosis is the first step of the process. You can effectively manage your symptoms with the right diagnosis, treatment plan, and self-care strategies. A designated treatment plan for any of the types of bipolar disorder includes the following:

  • medications,
  • psychotherapy,
  • lifestyle changes, and
  • self-management strategies. 

Useful Resources

Getting more information and understanding the spectrum of bipolar disorder is imperative for dealing with it the right way. Here are some trustworthy resources that you can dive into to broaden your understanding of the condition:

1. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: It offers a list of online and local support groups for depression and bipolar disorder. 

2. American Psychiatric Association: With qualified experts, APA is your go-to resource for any queries you may have regarding bipolar disorder.

3. The National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI offers various support groups for people dealing with bipolar disorder. It also has a helpline number  – 800-950-NAMI (6264). 


Bipolar disorder occurs on a spectrum. There are different types of bipolar disorder depending on the severity and duration of symptoms associated with them. 

As per the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorder is classified into five types – bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, other specified bipolar and related disorders, and unspecified bipolar disorder. 

If you resonate with the types of bipolar disorders listed in this blog, don’t be scared. Treatments, including therapy and medications, are available for you to get better. But first, you need to find a professional to get the correct diagnosis. 

Access to professional help is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn more about the most affordable online therapy platforms, click here.

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