Your Guide to Understanding Bipolar Disorder: Part 1

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If you’re struggling with bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Nearly 6 million American adults are affected by the condition, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Often, one of the challenges of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not fully understanding what it is or what its symptoms are. This guide can help you distinguish between the various types of the illness and recognize its symptoms.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three general types of bipolar disorder, each with their own set of varying degrees and symptoms. These include:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: This type is characterized by intense periods of mania, which are also typically mixed with depression, and may last for weeks or months.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: Type II is marked by episodes of depression, with shorter periods of hypomania often in between.
    Hypomania is not as intense as the manic episodes of Type I, which is why Bipolar II Disorder is often misdiagnosed as severe depression.
  • Not Otherwise Specified (NOS): Some cases of bipolar disorder don’t follow a pattern like with Types I and II.  These cases of the condition may frequently alternate between episodes of mania and depression, and the severity and length of these symptoms can fluctuate over time.

Common Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

While each of these types of bipolar disorder can present varying symptoms, there are some general signs that may indicate some form of the illness, including:

  • Feeling overly happy or “high” for long periods of time
  • Feeling easily agitated or jumpy
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things

If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, seek help from a professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.