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There are 4 basic types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I

This is the most severe form of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar I will typically experience severe mania and serious depression. Psychotic delusions are sometimes experienced in the manic phase and patients will often need restraint and hospitalization for their own safety during a severe manic phase. Episodes must last for at least a week to meet the criteria for bipolar 1, but more typically last for 4 or 5 months. Manic or depressive episodes are sometimes interrupted by periods of wellness.

Bipolar II

This milder form of the disorder is characterized by serious depressive episodes alternating with only occasional and moderate mania, known as hypomania. People experiencing a hypomanic state will not experience delusional thoughts or psychosis. Hypomania is a very pleasurable state; so much so that people will sometimes discontinue medication to experience heightened hypomania. Although known as a milder form of the disorder, bipolar II is actually associated with a higher risk of suicide than bipolar I.

Cyclothymic Disorder

An again milder form of bipolar; people with cyclothymic disorder cycle slowly between moderate depression and mild hypomania, generally without experiencing a break of normal mood between the two polarities.

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

A person who cycles through 4 or more episodes of mania, hypomania or depression per year has a condition called rapid cycling bipolar disorder. In some cases, cycling may even occur day by day or even within a matter of hours. People who experience an early age of onset or very severe symptoms are more at risk for rapid cycling bipolar.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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