NM Crisis Line: 1-855-662-7474 | Text HOME to 741741

«Return to Blog List What is Bipolar Really Like?

I thought about giving an introduction into my bipolar disorder (I am Bipolar 1), but then I decided a definition of the three types of bipolar would be a better start. But first, let me say what bipolar is not. Being sleepy, and then getting hyper after three cups of coffee is not bipolar, it is getting hyper from having so much caffeine. Being quiet all day and then suddenly getting incredibly happy upon receiving great news is not bipolar, it is being happy after waiting for so long to get great news. Playing music and singing while doing housework is not bipolar, it is motivation to get work done by making it fun. Snapping at someone after being quiet all day is not bipolar; it simply means you have gotten on their last nerve and they are tired of your bad behavior.

And now, the three types of bipolar as defined by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.

  • Bipolar I Disorder – defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
  • Bipolar II Disorder –  defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of Bipolar I Disorder.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia) – defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Sometimes a person might experience symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not match the three categories listed above, which is referred to as “other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders.”

And still, before you take a layman’s stance and decide to diagnosis someone with bipolar, you should also be aware of extenuating circumstances. Traumas, such as, taking care of a loved one while they are dying of cancer, being in a horrific car accident, being in an abusive relationship, etc., can also mimic signs of a bipolar disorder. For accuracy, a psychiatrist or psychologist should be seen. An evaluation will be done, a proper diagnosis will be concluded, and from there, proper patient treatment can begin.

Valerie has struggled with bipolar disorder all of her life and was finally diagnosed five years ago. She chose to write this blog so that others can know that they are not alone and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.