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By On November 6th, 2018

Do you know the difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2?

If you ask most people what bipolar disorder is, they are usually able to give you the broad strokes; bipolar disorder is a mental health issue characterized by extreme states of depression or mania.

While this is technically correct, it also belies how little people truly understand the nuances that can make a serious health issue with significant effects on a person’s life. For example, most are not aware that bipolar disorder exists in two distinct forms or subtypes.

Both bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 are marked by similar long-term patterns of extreme moods. However, these symptoms can express themselves in significantly different ways. To help you understand the differences, let’s start by exploring what bipolar 2 disorder is.

What is bipolar 2 disorder?

It may seem counter-intuitive to start with bipolar 2, but this is the form of bipolar disorder that most people are familiar with. Those living with bipolar 2 disorder experience prolonged periods of extreme mania and depression which may be largely unrelated to their emotional experiences.

Typically, these periods last between a few days to a week before gradually diminishing or alternating.

When experiencing this mania in bipolar 2, a person will often feel like they have more energy or have an elevated mood. This can also translate into being more talkative, getting less sleep, taking more risks, or feeling better about oneself.

Alternatively, during a depressive episode, a person with bipolar 2 may feel consistently worried, less energetic, difficulty concentrating, or even suicidal thoughts.

While difficult and disruptive to a person’s life, these extreme moods are generally not severe enough to completely interrupt daily activities.

How is this different from bipolar 1?

Bipolar 2 disorder is often considered the “less severe” form of bipolar disorder, while bipolar 1 is viewed as the more extreme version. However, this is a slightly simplistic take on the distinctions.

People with bipolar 1 experience many of the same symptoms as those with bipolar 2, including prolonged manic and depressive episodes. However, the manic episodes tend to last longer and include some level of psychosis. This includes delusions or hallucinations which are not present in bipolar 2.

In some cases, psychosis may also occur during depressive episodes. Without treatment, these episodes often continue to grow in intensity until they require hospitalization. If a person with bipolar 1 does not stay on their treatment plan or refuses medication, they may be hospitalized over and over again.

How are bipolar 1 and 2 treated?

Once diagnosed, the treatment for both versions of bipolar disorder is largely the same. Mood stabilizers act as the first defense to immediately help manage symptoms and reduce the presence of psychosis.

From there, therapy or counseling can help a person learn to manage the remaining symptoms or adjust medication until bipolar disorder is no longer a significant impact on their life. Regular counseling can also help individuals stay on course with their recovery over long-periods of time. Without this, it is highly common for individuals to neglect taking medication until a severe relapse occurs.

If you believe you or someone you love may be living with bipolar disorder, please call Brookhaven for help at 888-298-HOPE (4673). We can answer any questions you have and find the right recovery plan for you.

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