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Contrary to what some may believe, there are many different types of bipolar disorder. The two most prominent types of bipolar disorder include bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder. Learning more about bipolar disorder, and the difference between bipolar 1 and 2 can help individuals better understand the challenges those suffering face daily. 

Understanding Bipolar Disorder and Its Subtypes

Bipolar disorder is becoming more and more prominent in the U.S. and abroad. According to Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, “A recent meta-analysis of 25 studies found a pooled lifetime prevalence of 1.06% and 1.57% for bipolar type I and II, respectively, although the majority of the included studies were from North or South America. Nevertheless, a similar prevalence has been found in the UK, Germany, and Italy, and a lifetime prevalence between 0.1 – 1.83% was found in a systematic review of studies from African countries.” Considering both U.S. and global populations, these are not insignificant statistics.

While many people may have heard the term bipolar disorder come up in conversation more in recent years, many people are still unaware of what the disorder entails. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that causes unusual shifts in mood, ranging from extreme highs (mania or “manic” episodes) to lows (depression or “depressive” episode). A person who has bipolar disorder also experiences changes in their energy, thinking, behavior, and sleep,” and “During bipolar mood episodes, it is difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks, go to work or school, and maintain relationships.” This is true for both bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder.

Bipolar 1 Disorder

While bipolar 1 disorder may be less prominent in the U.S. than bipolar 2 disorder, it still affects millions of people. It is also extremely disruptive if not diagnosed and treated properly.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Bipolar I disorder is defined by manic episodes that last for at least 7 days (nearly every day for most of the day) or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate medical 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.” The biggest difference between bipolar 1I and 2 is the severity of manic episodes versus depressive episodes. 

Bipolar 2 Disorder

While bipolar 1 disorder is primarily defined by the severity of its manic episodes, bipolar 2 disorder is best defined by intense depressive episodes. This distinction has also been crucial in the way that both bipolar 1 and 2 are diagnosed and treated.

As stated in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, “The inclusion of bipolar II disorder as a subtype of bipolar illness in the DSM-IV is probably, from a clinical perspective, the most important change in the classification of mental disorders over the past 25 years. The recognition of this condition as a specific mental disorder has enhanced healthcare access, medical awareness, and research on a medical entity that had been neglected for ages in the official taxonomies.” 

Treating Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 Disorder

Both bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders are primarily treated with a two-pronged approach. This approach includes both therapy (most commonly psychotherapy) and medication.

The type of medication used is one of the key differences in how both disorders are treated. For treating bipolar 1 disorder, medication is predominately prescribed to address manic symptoms, whereas for treating bipolar 2 disorder, medication is predominately prescribed to address depressive symptoms.

Furthermore, bipolar 1I disorder will often be treated in the long term with mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications. Bipolar 2II disorder, on the other hand, will often also be treated with mood stabilizers, but with antidepressants in place of antipsychotics. However, it is not unusual for both disorders to sometimes include some small doses of either antidepressant for bipolar 1I or antipsychotics for bipolar 2 depending on individual needs. One key goal is to find the right combination of medications. This means continuing to check in with a professional to ensure that the combination is working. Needs can change over time.

The Difference at The Phoenix Recovery Center

At The Phoenix Recovery Center, we have a mission statement that we follow closely. “Empowering individuals and families suffering from addiction and mental health disorders, to celebrate life through lasting solutions.”

Life and recovery is a journey, never a destination. So, it is important to always focus on the ride rather than the finish line. Now, in a recovery journey, the key is to take that first step and ask for help. When we do that, we are one step closer to success and the life we all desire and deserve.

There are multiple types of bipolar disorder, but the primary two are bipolar 1 disorder and bipolar 2 disorder. It can be particularly helpful for recovery to know the similarities and differences between the two, primarily the manic and depressive differences. However, regardless of whether it is bipolar 1 or 2 disorder, both can best be treated via psychotherapy and medication. If you feel like you or a loved one are struggling with issues of mental illness, addiction, or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you on the positive path toward long-term recovery. For more information regarding the differences between bipolar I and bipolar II disorder, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT