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The Difference Between Bipolar Type I & II

While you can find some general information about bipolar disorder on our web site, I was interested in learning more about the differences between bipolar type I and type II. This article will give you a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of the two main subtypes of bipolar disorder.

According to National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks ( While nearly two-thirds of both types tend to begin with a manic episode (the rest begin with a depressive episode), what makes the two types different is the severity of the mania.

Mania is most commonly defined as having an abnormally elevated mood, along with such other symptoms as an excess of energy, extravagant behavior, rapid speech, reckless spending, and hallucinations ( People with type II experience hypomania which is a milder, or more moderate form, of mania. Hypomania is usually less destructive than mania seen in type I. Many people going through hypomania may feel more productive, higher functioning, and sometimes feel even better than normal.

People with type I experience more severe mania that can often include persistent periods of elevated or irritable moods, delusional ideas, impaired judgment, insomnia, and have three or more symptoms lasting a week or longer. About one-half to two-thirds of people with mania have psychotic symptoms. In hypomania, no psychotic symptoms are present (

However, one study has found that depression is three times more common than mania in bipolar I disorder, and another study found that over the course of bipolar II disorder, the amount of time spent in depression was nearly 40 times more common than the time spent in hypomania ( In other words, depressive episodes are more common and last longer than manic or hypomanic episodes in both types.

Bipolar I tends to be more obvious to spot than type II due to its more severe mood cycles. Type II can be more difficult to diagnose because often times doctors treat only the depression. Since the hypomanic episodes can be mild, they can be mistaken for the depression lifting and the patient goes undiagnosed.

While bipolar disorder cannot be prevented entirely, medication along with regular therapy sessions can help lower the risk and severity of future depressive and manic episodes. Psychotherapy can also teach patients how to recognize the symptoms sooner and learn ways to effectively cope.

To learn more about bipolar types I and II, go to:


About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator

Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank and YWCA. Jill joined The Kim Foundation as Project Coordinator in April 2014.