Different Types of Bipolar Disorders

The Stanford School of Medicine reports that bipolar disorders affect about 2.2 million Americans as of 2010. The average age at onset is about 20 years old for both males and females alike. The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” posits that 90 percent of people with bipolar disorders will experience more than one manic or major depressive episode of significance during their lives.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is characterized by the occurrence of more manic episodes, with depressive episodes as secondary. According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” 60 percent to 70 percent of people with Bipolar I will exhibit extreme manic episodes (also referred to as the “high-highs”) just before or just after a bout with major depression. The National Institute of Mental Health’s “Bipolar Disorder” fact sheet adds that common emotions can easily become distorted or otherwise intensified, and moods can easily move from happiness to sadness in a short time. In some cases, delusions and hallucinations can result from extreme (schizo-affective) bipolar mania.

Bipolar II

Bipolar II could be considered the “polar opposite” of Bipolar I. The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” posits that Bipolar II is characterized by more frequent depressive episodes and less frequent mania. This diagnosis appears more often among females, with the additions of rapid cycling and increased rates of onset after the birth of a child.


Cyclothymia is a mixed bipolar disorder that characteristically describes the persistence of depression and mania presence in conflict. The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” lists this disorder as relative to a 2-year period with hypo-manic symptoms affected by fluctuating bouts of depression as a constant. This is uncharacteristic of the Bipolar I and Bipolar II types because of the lack of a true major depressive episode and the inability to cross-list this diagnosis with the schizo-affective type, and it could be represented in a written diagnosis as “Bipolar Not Otherwise Specified” (NOS).

About this Author

Robin Wood-Moen holds a M.Sc. in psychology and is currently working on a Ph.D. in health psychology from Walden University. She is an academic researcher and professional writer in health psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, religion/spirituality, bereavement, death/dying, meaning-making processes, and CAM therapies.