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Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorders affect 2.6 percent of adult Americans in any given year. Symptoms of bipolar appear as noticeable changes in mood and behaviors.

Mood Disorders

Many people experience mood swings from time to time. When changes in mood start to affect a person’s relationships and ability to maintain a job this may very well indicate a bipolar disorder is present. In most cases, symptoms of the disorder start to appear between the ages of 15 and 25, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

People who suffer from bipolar disorder experience noticeable periods or episodes of depression that alternate with periods of mania. Mania or manic episodes involve high energy levels where a person may feel invincible and behave in abnormal ways. Depression episodes can also be severe to the point where a person becomes suicidal.

The marked changes in mood and personality can have harmful effects on a person’s work performance. These changes can also cause considerable damage to the relationships in a person’s life.

Type I

The different types of bipolar disorder vary in terms of how severe a person’s mood episodes are and how long each episode lasts. Type I bipolar is considered the more severe form of the condition, according to WebMD. People who suffer from Type I experience at least one manic episode with multiple periods of major depression. An episode can last anywhere from one week to six months with noticeable personality changes taking place as a person moves from one episode to another.

And while type I may be the most severe of all, all forms appear as lifelong conditions that require ongoing monitoring and treatment. For the most severe cases, a person may still experience symptoms even while undergoing treatment, which is why ongoing monitoring is important.

Type II

Whether or not a person experiences full-blown mania is what distinguishes type I from type II bipolar. A full-blown episode may involve exhibitionist behavior, a series of sleepless nights coupled with extremely high energy levels. For type II conditions, a person may experience high energy levels and some impulsive behavior, but not near as extreme as someone with a type I condition. Manic episodes for type II are labeled as hypomania. Type II conditions also involve alternating periods of depression.

For most people, certain triggers may bring on a manic or depressive episode. Episode triggers can vary from person-to-person, but the most common causes include:

  • Major life changes, such as a change in jobs, relocating to a new place or childbirth
  • Recreational drug use
  • Insomnia
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Stimulant medications

Other Types

Other forms of the disorder appear as variations on type I and type II, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People who experience periods of hypomania with brief episodes of depression may suffer from cyclothymic disorder. With cyclothymic conditions, depression episodes are usually shorter and less severe than those found in type I disorders.

Mixed bipolar, another form of the disorder, involve full-blown episodes of both mania and depression that occur at the same time. Symptoms associated with this condition include-

  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Depression

Rapid-cycling is another type of bipolar condition where a person experiences four or more manic/depressive episodes within a 12-month period. With rapid-cycling conditions, each mood period must last a minimum of three to seven days to be considered an actual episode. Rapid-cycling conditions may also involve shorter cycles where a person experiences marked mood shifts within a single week or single day.

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