As many as nearly 5 percent of American adults have bipolar disorder at some point in their lives, but they won’t all experience the same kinds of mood swings. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognizes bipolar 1 and 2 but cyclothymic disorder and unspecified bipolar disorder are related. While they each involve shifts in mood alternating between mania and depression (manic episodes last at least a week, and depressive episodes last at least two weeks), the subtypes have a few key differences. Read on for a snapshot of each type.

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Bipolar I Disorder 

How it’s diagnosed: You only need to have one manic episode to be diagnosed with bipolar I.

Symptoms: Persistently elevated mood and energy, frenzied speech, irritability, delusions, risk-taking or grandiose behavior, and a decreased need for sleep. Separate phases of depression often occur.

Treatments: Mood stabilizing drugs and psychotherapy (including family-focused therapy and psychoeducation) are usually the first line of treatment. Stronger medication includes antipsychotic or anti-seizure drugs, but antidepressants may increase the likelihood of a manic episode.

Updated: May 21, 2021
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