Characterized by drastic, uncontrollable mood swings, Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million Americans according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Also referred to as manic-depressive disorder, this mental illness can have devastating consequences if left unchecked, with alternating periods of mania—or extremely “up” behavior—and depression severely interrupting a sufferer’s ability to function normally in daily life.

There are four basic classifications of Bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder
  • Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

With all types, drastic shifts in mood and energy levels are experienced, but there are different criteria separating each category above. Understanding what type of Bipolar disorder a patient suffers from is important for planning proper treatment.

Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least one week at a time, or that are so intense the affected individual needs professional medical care. Depressive symptoms are also relentless, and occasionally a patient may experience both manic and depressive symptoms at once.

Bipolar II Disorder is slightly less extreme, with “hypomanic” episodes taking place instead of full-on mania, meaning the manic behavior is not usually enough to warrant hospitalization. Still, the pattern of mania and depression of a Bipolar II patient is a significant mental health issue.

Cyclothymic Disorder is less severe than Bipolar I and Bipolar II. It can progress to the more advanced stages of the disease in later life, especially without treatment.

Unspecified Bipolar Disorder is a term used to describe bipolar symptoms suffered by individuals who are lacking other hallmarks of the disease.

Common Manic Symptoms

  • Increased activity levels
  • Excess energy
  • Fast talking
  • Recklessness
  • Rash decision making

Common Depressive Symptoms

  • Hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased energy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Effective treatment plans for Bipolar disorder include a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes aimed at stabilizing mood and lessening the dramatic shifts between manic and depressive symptoms. With proper care and treatment, many individuals with bipolar disorder can lead full, healthy lives. There are no clear physical or genetic risk factors identified, but a family history of bipolar disorder can indicate that an individual is at a higher risk for developing symptoms. There is a significant need for further research into both causes of and treatments for this disease.

Lehigh Center frequently conducts clinical studies that contribute to the development of better bipolar disorder medications. If you or a family member suffers from this devastating mental illness and you wish to participate in one of out trials, please consider applying here. Your time and efforts may have a positive effect on the community of patients who struggle with biopolar disorder around the world.