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Bipolar Disorder: It's More Complex Than You Might Think

One minute you’re on top of the world and the next you’re feeling the weight of the world — could this be bipolar disorder? Perhaps, but a bipolar disorder is far more complex than extreme mood swings.

Our team at Plymouth Psych Group has considerable experience helping clients and families who are affected by bipolar disorder, and we understand the complexity of this condition. In the nearly 3% of adults in the United States who had bipolar disorder in the past year, this mental health issue can present itself in many different ways, and we explore those here.

Three types of bipolar disorder

There are three main types of bipolar disorder, including bipolar disorders I and II as well as cyclothymic disorder.

Bipolar disorder I

This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by manic episodes that last at least a week and can be severe enough that the patient requires hospitalization. Typically, these episodes are followed by depressive episodes that can last two weeks or more. In rare cases, the person may experience both manic and depressive episodes concurrently.

Bipolar disorder II

With this form of bipolar disorder, you experience patterns of hypomania (a lesser form of mania) and depression.

Cyclothymic disorder

If you have bouts of hypomania, as well as long periods of depressive symptoms (two years or more for adults and one year for children), but the symptoms aren’t severe enough to meet diagnostic criteria, this could be cyclothymia.

Making matters more complicated, you or your loved one may experience different timelines and patterns of depression and hypomania/mania that don’t fit neatly into one of these three types, but it still may be bipolar disorder.

Defining hypomania and depression

Since bipolar disorder usually includes manic or hypomanic symptoms as well as depressive symptoms, it may be helpful to outline some of the hallmarks of these extreme ends of the mood spectrum.

Mania and hypomania are far more than simply feeling unusually happy, and often include:

If the symptoms are severe (manic), they can be dangerous for the person exhibiting them, as they take unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in harm’s way.

Moving to the other end of the mood disorder, during a depressive period, the symptoms may include:

If the depression is severe, the person may have suicidal thoughts.

Treating bipolar disorder

As you can see, bipolar disorder is incredibly complex (not to mention, widely misunderstood), which is why you need to have an experienced mental health team in your corner. After a thorough evaluation of your or your loved one’s symptoms, we devise a treatment plan that likely involves medications alongside comprehensive therapy, which will give you the tools you need to balance and regulate your emotions.

If you have more questions about bipolar disorder, please don’t hesitate to contact our office in Plymouth, Minnesota, to learn more.

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