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Bipolar I and Bipolar 2.

Bipolar disorder is not one specific diagnosis. In the past few years, the
term ‘bipolar spectrum disorder’ is used to describe the different forms of
the illness. The two main forms of bipolar disorder are bipolar I and
bipolar 2. It’s estimated that 1% of the US population has bipolar
disorder. Recent studies show that up to 6% of the US population has bipolar
2. These numbers are similar around the world. Here are the different forms
of bipolar disorder diagnosis and their meanings.

The only difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II is mania. Those with
Bipolar I have full blown mania and those with Bipolar II have hypomania.
It’s easier to diagnose Bipolar I as the full blown mania almost always
needs medical attention. It’s much more difficult to diagnose Bipolar II as
the person is often seen as depressed and the mania is never talked about.
Very few people go to the doctor when their mood is high! Today’s health
care professionals are more aware of the signs of hypomania which is why
more people with Bipolar II are getting help.

Other Bipolar Diagnoses

There is a third type of bipolar disorder that is unfortunately very common-
it’s often called Bipolar 3. This is where medications that lead to bipolar
disorder. This is usually a mania inducing antidepressant, but this can also
be from stimulant medications and cotico steroids. Bipolar 3 happens when a
person visits a health care professional for help with depression. When they
take an antidepressant, the mania comes out of hiding and the person
receives either a Bipolar I or Bipolar II diagnosis. It is essential that
all health care professionals ask their patients about a history of bipolar
disorder in the family and also ask if the person has had mild signs of
mania BEFORE prescribing a medication that may cause mania. This doesn’t
mean that medications cause bipolar disorder. The person has to have a
genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder, but there is a chance the mania
would have been dormant.

Cyclothymia describes a low level type of bipolar disorder where a person
has mood swings up and down, but they are milder than Bipolar I or Bipolar
II. People can live a lifetime with cyclothymia and not know they need help.

And finally, there is a very rare type of bipolar disorder that is all
mania. As you can imagine, these people get a lot done! But this is a very
destructive form of bipolar disorder.

What is rapid cycling bipolar disorder?

Most people with bipolar disorder have mood swings with a non mood swing
space in between. For example, a person with Bipolar I may have a serious
manic episode that turns into a depressed episode and then ends. It’s very
possible this person will not have a similar mood swing for a very long
time. People with Bipolar II may have a long depression in one year with a
break and then a period of hypomania. They may then be okay for a long
period. People with rapid cycling have a very different form of the illness.
Rapid cycling means that a person with either Bipolar I or Bipolar II has
four or more mood swings a year with either two weeks of normal mood in
between or a direct shift for one to another with no period of normal mood
in between. Rapid cycling is more common in Bipolar II as well as more
common for women. It’s estimated that 20% of those with bipolar have rapid
cycling. I believe this is a very low estimate as the hypomania that people
with Bipolar I and II are often missed as are mild episodes of dysphoric
mania. Rapid cycling is not a separate diagnosis- but basically goes on top
of a bipolar diagnosis. It’s widely accepted that anti-depressants use can
greatly increase a person’s chance of rapid cycling. Some, such as myself
have a very intense form of rapid cycling called ultra rapid cycling. When
I’m ill, I have two or more mood swings a day. My longest period of
stability in the past seven years since I started writing about bipolar
disorder is 35 days. This is why I have used the Health Cards plan every day
since 1999. I want to have a normal life despite the constant mood swings.
The only way to know if you have rapid cycling is to chart your mood each

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is an illness that combines the symptoms of bipolar
disorder with the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. In this case, the
person has a full diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but not always a full
diagnosis of schizophrenia. When a person has bipolar disorder, they often
experience psychosis with full blown euphoric or dysphoric mania and
sometimes depression. The difference is that a person with a schizoaffective
disorder experiences psychosis with mood swings as well as psychosis in
between mood swings. In other words, a person with schizoaffective disorder
has psychosis with a mood swing as well as psychosis on its own while those
with bipolar disorder never have psychosis on its own.