Everyone experiences times when they feel up and periods when they feel down. Bipolar disorders, which affect about 4% of American adults, are characterized by these mood cycles between high and low periods. 

But bipolar disorder takes many forms. And because the severity, duration, and characteristics vary between types of bipolar and all people have highs and lows, it can be challenging to recognize the disorder. 

That’s what makes getting help from a psychiatric professional, like board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner Nola Ayoola-Yussuf, PMHNP-BC, at Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness, essential.

At her practice in Woodbridge, Virginia, and through telehealth appointments for patients in Maryland, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC, Nola offers expert bipolar disorder diagnosis and management.   

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of bipolar disorder and the signs of this serious mental health disorder.    

The different types of bipolar disorder

It’s important to understand that not all people with bipolar disorder have the same variation of the condition. There are three main types of bipolar disorder, which include:

Bipolar I

In bipolar I disorder, mania is the primary presenting problem, as it generally causes extreme mood swings that can lead to very risky or dangerous behavior. It can lead to delusions or psychosis. Depression can also be severe in people with bipolar I and can even cause suicidal ideation.  

To be diagnosed with bipolar I, you’ve had at least one manic episode lasting more than seven days. Bipolar I also usually involves at least one depressive episode, but not always. 

Bipolar II

With bipolar II disorder, major depression is the primary presenting problem. Patients may have some symptoms of mania, but they’re generally less severe and don’t last as long. This is called hypomania, which is a milder form of manic symptoms.

To be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, you’ve had at least one episode of major depression and at least one episode of hypomania. 

Cyclothymic disorder

Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, is a less common type of bipolar that regularly shifts between hypomania and depression but with less dramatic symptoms than traditional bipolar. That doesn’t mean cyclothymia doesn’t disrupt your life.  

To be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, you’ve had multiple periods of hypomania and depression for at least two years, followed by periods of stable moods.  

Recognizing the early signs of bipolar

Remember that because the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder vary and because the severity, characteristics, and duration of mania and depression differ between people, it can be very difficult to recognize the signs of bipolar disorder. 

To help you better know what to look for, here’s a look at what mania and depressive symptoms may look like:

Symptoms of mania

Mania is a period of having an abnormally elevated mood, an abnormally irritable mood, or unusually high amounts of energy for a week or longer. Some common signs of mania include:

  • Not needing as much sleep
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Feeling jumpy, restless, or impulsive
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Talking very fast or changing topics quickly
  • Feeling wired, extremely happy, or “high”
  • Not feeling hungry/weight loss
  • Feeling invincible
  • Feeling of grandiosity
  • Engaging in risky behaviors (e.g., impulsive sex, spending money, substance misuse)

Remember, these symptoms may also present as hypomania, meaning they’re milder and don’t last as long.  

Symptoms of depression

The depressive period involves low mood and other symptoms of depression for long periods, which may include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Feeling hopeless, sad, or down 
  • Problems with decision-making, concentrating, or memory
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Struggling to carry out normal activities
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling fatigued or lack of energy
  • Talking slowly or feeling slow
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Thinking about death
  • Thinking about suicide

Other mental health disorders, like ADHD, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), could also have these symptoms. To help recognize bipolar disorder early, look for these additional signs:

  • Symptoms of both manic and/or depressive episodes
  • Symptoms started in adolescence or early adulthood
  • Symptoms or behavior that differs from past symptoms and behaviors
  • Ignoring things or people that were previously important to you/them

Again, if you suspect bipolar disorder, it’s very important to seek professional help. 

Treating different types of bipolar disorder

At Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness, Nola first assesses your symptoms and history to accurately diagnose your condition; then, she creates a personalized bipolar treatment plan based on your unique needs and preferences. Possible therapies include:

  • Medications, like mood stabilizers and/or antidepressants
  • Talk therapies, like interpersonal psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy

The most effective bipolar disorder treatment plans typically include an integrated approach, which combines therapy and medications. 

Learn more about bipolar disorder by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness.

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