Types of Bipolar Disorder

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, I was overwhelmed with a range of emotions. On one hand, I felt relieved to finally have a proper diagnosis. On the other hand, I was pissed at every psychiatrist and therapist who refused to listen to me and missed the signs. Once I pulled myself together, I dove headfirst into researching as much as I could on my illness. While I’ll never stop educating myself, I now know quite a bit about bipolar disorder. Living with this disorder, there are more lows than there are highs. When I’m manic, it’s full-blown mania. I’ve grown to recognize some beginning signs that I’m probably experiencing a manic episode. But once it starts, there’s really no way for me to stop it. I have to find ways to cope and I have to ride the wave until I come down from my high. 

When the depression comes, it’s pretty severe. At my lowest, I’ll more than likely try to harm myself. When I’m extremely depressed, I spend every second in bed. I feel numb while somehow still feeling everything. I don’t care about much of anything. I don’t eat. I either sleep too little or too much. I have trouble bathing. I don’t want to be bothered with anyone. It’s difficult to pull myself out of the darkness that is depression. 

Put simply, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. An individual struggling with this experiences unusual shifts in mood. Yes, we all feel “moody” at times but someone with bipolar has severe mood swings. Today I want to discuss the different types of bipolar disorder, treatment, and provide some other resources. 

Types of Bipolar Disorder


  • Bipolar 1 Disorder – This type is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days or mania symptoms that are severe enough an individual needs to be hospitalized. A person with bipolar type 1 also experiences depressive episodes, usually lasting at least 2 weeks. It’s also possible to have symptoms of both mania and depression simultaneously. This is called a mixed episode. 
  • Bipolar 2 Disorder – With bipolar type 2, a person experiences depressive episodes as well as episodes of hypomania, a milder form of mania.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder – This is a milder form of bipolar disorder. An individual still has mood swings, however, the highs and lows aren’t considered severe enough to qualify as manic episodes or depressive episodes. 
  • Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) – This is usually diagnosed when an individual shows some symptoms of bipolar disorder but doesn’t meet all the criteria in the DSM-5.


Regardless of which type of bipolar disorder a person struggles with, this is still a very serious illness. Treatment for bipolar is usually lifelong and typically consists of therapy and medication.

I used to feel helpless. I hated the thought of being on medication for the rest of my life, but it has saved my life and I’m grateful for that. With the right treatment, those of us living with bipolar disorder can have a happy and fulfilling life. If you’re struggling right now know that there is hope and that you’re not alone. 

Therapy resources

Therapy For Black Girls

Therapy For Black Men

Psychology Today

Related mental health articles

Bipolar Disorder & Relationships

Let’s Chat Mental Health – Therapy Is Ok

What To Do When Family and Friends Don’t Accept Your Mental Illness

Six Tips for Discussing Your Mental Health with Your Employer

Bipolar Disorder vs. Depression

Psychiatric Medication Saved my Life

How to Cope With the Side Effects of Psychiatric Medications

Therapy is Not a Dirty Word


Photo by Nick Owuor (astro.nic.visuals) on Unsplash

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