What is the difference between Bipolar 1 and 2?

Mental health disorders are never one size fits all — they affect everyone differently. Not only are there more than 200 mental disorders that affect 57 million U.S. adults, but there are also subsets within the disorders that define the severity of the symptoms.

While many may assume that most people with bipolar disorder have similar symptoms, that’s not the case. In fact, a person with the mood disorder can be diagnosed with either Bipolar 1 or Bipolar 2 disorder. What’s the difference? That’s what we’re here to answer.

Read on to learn about the basics of bipolar disorder and the difference between Bipolar 1 and 2. You will also learn about how to approach treatment for both types.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is a type of mood disorder that affects about 5.7 million adults in the U.S. It centers on unusual changes in a person’s activity and energy levels. The disorder involves mood swings, often referred to as episodes, that can range from manic highs to depressive lows. These drastic changes in emotion can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships and carry out your day-to-day tasks. 

Manic episode symptoms include:

  • Heightened energy
  • Disrupted eating and sleeping patterns
  • Irritability
  • Risky or dangerous behavior
  • Unusually high desire to talk
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility

Depressive episode symptoms include:

  • Pervasive feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Sense of abandonment
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Increased time sleeping
  • Suicidality
  • Trouble concentrating

The difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2

Not every bipolar diagnosis is the same. The disorder can have different levels of acuity and severity, so a mental health provider can diagnose you with either Bipolar 1 or 2.

Bipolar 1 has the highest level of acuity for a diagnosis of the mood disorder. If you have Bipolar 1, you have extreme interval shifts between depressive and manic episodes. Your manic episodes can last up to seven days which are followed by intense depressive episodes that can last more than two weeks. 

If you’re diagnosed with Bipolar 2, you still have depressive episodes, but you experience hypomanic episodes as opposed to manic episodes. Hypomania is milder than a manic episode, and it doesn’t last as long either.

It’s also important to note the possibility of being diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder. This disorder refers to general patterns of bipolar symptoms and episodes that don’t fit the criteria of Bipolar 1 or 2. It involves mild manic or depressive episodes that last longer than a year. 

Why Bipolar 2 can be misdiagnosed as depression

Since Bipolar 2 causes less severe manic episodes than Bipolar 1, many people may only take notice of the depressive episodes. That’s why Bipolar 2 may be misdiagnosed as major depressive disorder. It shares many symptoms with depression, including feelings of hopelessness and a lack of enjoyment in activities. Suicidal thoughts are also common in both. Suicidality is actually more common in Bipolar 2 disorder than depression.

If you’re feeling extended periods of overwhelming sadness, it’s important to see if it follows or precedes a period of feeling unusually high levels of energy. Noticing hypomanic symptoms that come before or after depressive symptoms can ensure that you’re properly diagnosed. Depression treatments aren’t often effective for Bipolar 2, and can even exacerbate the hypomanic symptoms.

How to treat Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2

Whether you have Bipolar 1 or Bipolar 2, there are ways to help treat your symptoms. Through medication and therapy, you can manage your bipolar disorder symptoms and improve your overall well-being.

By describing your emotional changes and potential bipolar symptoms to a mental health provider in therapy, they can help determine if you have Bipolar 1 or Bipolar 2. Then they can find the best treatment options for you, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. They can also prescribe medication such as mood stabilizers and antipsychotics.

At Lightfully, we offer four programs that can help you address any type of bipolar disorder: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help with your Bipolar 1 and 2

It can be confusing to figure out the difference between Bipolar 1 and 2. Regardless of which bipolar disorder you have, you deserve to get the proper treatment for your specific symptoms. Both people with Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 can manage their episodes with the right diagnosis and personalized treatment options.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step toward treating bipolar disorder symptoms, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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