What are the 3 Main Types of Bipolar Disorder?

Table of Contents

At some point in their lives, about 4.4 percent of American adults experience bipolar disorder. This complex mental illness is often misdiagnosed because it can include and present as other, less complicated diseases. It tends to manifest as cyclical episodes of mania and depression. If you experience these symptoms, you may recognize changes in mood, energy levels, and behaviors that impair your ability to function normally from day to day. Psychiatric healthcare professionals can assess the intensity and duration of these highs and lows to diagnose the particular type of mental affliction on display.

All types of bipolar disorder include episodes of mania and depression. There are two types of mania, called mania and hypomania, that are differentiated by their severity, as follows:


Manic periods can affect your daily life, job, and relationships. A manic episode typically includes the following symptoms:

  • extreme highs
  • short temperedness
  • insomnia
  • high energy levels, hyperactivity, and nervousness
  • inflated self-esteem or a sense of invincibility
  • intense enthusiasm, elation, and excitement
  • indecisiveness and loss of concentration
  • racing thoughts
  • engaging in risky, reckless, pleasure-seeking behaviors
  • restlessness
  • decrease in appetite
  • Talkativeness


Of the two types of mania, hypomania is similar to but less severe than mania. Its symptoms are noticeable enough to interfere with your work, daily activities, and relationships.


Most people with a manic-depressive illness experience depressive episodes that last longer than manic episodes. Depressive symptoms must last for at least two weeks to warrant a diagnosis. They include:

  • fatigue
  • feeling overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, or despair
  • getting too much or too little sleep
  • eating too much or too little food
  • putting on weight
  • lack of focus and concentration
  • losing interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • low self-esteem
  • pain without any obvious physical cause
  • suicidal tendencies

What Are the Three Main Types of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder I

The first type of disorder involves manic episodes that last for a week or more or mania that requires you to be hospitalized so that you do not endanger anyone. It also manifests as a major depressive episode that lasts two weeks or more. Most people suffer distinct manic and depressive episodes, but these states can coincide.

Bipolar Disorder II

The second type of disorder is characterized by cyclic highs and lows that affect your daily life without being severe enough to require hospitalization. If you have this disorder, you may experience a major depressive episode preceding or following a period of hypomania.

Other symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders may include anxiety or psychosis. Psychotic episodes are defined by hallucinations, delusions, and losing touch with reality. If you have at least four manic or depressive episodes in a year that subside for two months or more or switch states, you may be experiencing a condition doctors call “rapid cycling.”

Cyclothymic Disorder

The third type of disorder presents low-level hypomania and depression that may not be distinctively episodic. Cyclothymia symptoms last for at least two years in adults, while children experience symptoms for at least one year.

How to Get Tested for Bipolar Disorder

man with bipolar disorder

Manic-depressive disorders usually manifest during late childhood and early adulthood. Experts theorize that genetics and family history, environmental triggers such as prolonged stress and grief, traumatic head injuries, or alcohol and drug abuse may increase the risk of encouraging symptoms to manifest. Most people suffer for several years before they are diagnosed. Early intervention can mitigate the negative consequences this illness can cause in daily life.

A qualified psychiatric health professional can perform a bipolar disorder test to evaluate your mental health. During the consultation, they may explore your medical history and recent and past thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. With your consent, they may speak to your close friends or family about their perception of your manic symptoms. The healthcare specialist may also refer to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-5, for guidance before making a diagnosis. A doctor may also conduct a physical examination, blood test, or neurological scan to rule out any other potential disorders.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Treated?

Once this mental illness has been diagnosed, the psychiatric healthcare provider will propose a treatment plan that helps a person manage their symptoms. Treatments may include:

Medication for Bipolar Disorder

Many take one or several medications, including anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, or antidepressant drugs, to treat their mental illness. Lithium is a commonly prescribed mood stabilizer that may help promote long-term remission.

Lifestyle Changes for Bipolar Disorder

Most people with mental illness benefit from lifestyle changes that encourage good health. Avoiding alcohol and drugs, eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough regular sleep, and minimizing stress are critical to maintaining a good quality of life. Meditation and a solid emotional support network can also have a positive impact on your long-term stability.

bipolar disorder

Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Psychotherapy can help you recognize and mindfully respond to changes in your thoughts and mood. Individual, family, and group therapy can help you establish healthy habits and learn to adapt to daily challenges.

Alternative Medical Treatments

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is an FDA-cleared therapy that may help alleviate major depressive disorders in some bipolar patients.

Mind Body Optimization Is Here to Support Your Mental Health Journey

Mind Body Optimization is an innovative outpatient facility in Franklin, Tennessee that combines clinical and holistic interventions to turn mental health treatment into a positive healing experience. If you or someone you love is suffering from mental health issues please reach out to us for help. We want to help you live your best, happiest life, day after day.