What is the Difference Between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 Disorders?

What is the Difference Between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 Disorders?

Most of the people suffer from emotional disturbances from time to time. However, if you are experiencing a brain condition known as bipolar disorder, these feelings may reach an abnormally high or low level.

There are times when you will feel extremely excited and full of energy. This can be followed by episodes of extreme depression and overthinking. This rollercoaster ride of emotions can continue for weeks and even for months.

Bipolar disorder is divided into four basic types. These may include:

  • Bipolar 1 disorder
  • Bipolar 2 disorder
  • Cyclothymia
  • Specified and unspecified types of bipolar disorder

Bipolar 1 and 2 disorders are the commonest forms of this disease. A common question that a lot of people have in their minds is how to differentiate between these two types.

Bipolar 1 vs. Bipolar 2

All types of bipolar disorders include episodes of extreme lows and extreme highs. People refer to the higher ones as manic episodes whereas the lower ones are known as depressive episodes.

The main difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders is in the intensity of the manic episodes that are experienced in each type. The depressive phase remains the same in both of these types.

In bipolar 1 disorder, the person suffers from extremely high levels of mania as compared to a patient who is suffering from bipolar 2 disorders. In fact, in bipolar disorder 2, the patients suffer from a condition known as hypomania.

Hypomania refers to a form of mania but with less severity. Such kinds of behavior are not usually considered abnormal but definitely are atypical.

Mania patterns, on the other hand, are extremely disturbing and are strongly referred to as abnormal.

What is Bipolar 1 Disorder?

A person is said to suffer from bipolar 1 disorder if he has had one major episode of depression and one manic episode. The depressive episode can occur either before and after the manic episode.

Sometimes, the symptoms of the manic episode are so high that hospital care becomes urgent.

Most of the episodes of mania are characterized by the following signs:

  • Restlessness
  • Exceptional energy
  • Risky behavior
  • Trouble in concentrating
  • Euphoric feeling
  • Poor quality of sleep

The symptoms of mania are so obvious that no doubt remains about the presence of type 1 bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder

What is Bipolar 2 Disorder?

Bipolar 2 disorder includes a major depressive episode that lasts for two weeks. This is followed by at least one episode of hypomania. People who are suffering from bipolar 2 disorder do not tend to go through a lot of manic episodes that are so intense that hospitalization is required.

Bipolar 2 disorder can also be mistaken for depression. In the absence of the manic episodes, people usually start focusing on the depressive signs and may diagnose the problem to be depression

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

As it has been discussed before, bipolar 1 disorder causes depression and mania. On the other hand, bipolar 2 disorder leads to depression and hypomania. Let’s see what these symptoms actually mean in more depth.

RELATED: Bipolar Disorder- Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


A manic episode is much more than a feeling of high energy, elation, and distraction. During an episode of mania, the symptoms are so intense that it makes your life difficult. There are a lot of problems in performing the daily activities.

It is extremely difficult for someone suffering from a manic episode to calm down.  The patients tend to make some irrational decisions, for example, spending a lot of money that they actually cannot afford.

They are also more likely to get involved in risky behaviors such as sexual indiscretions despite the fact that they are in a committed relationship before the attack.

If outside sources are the reason for stimulation of a manic episode, this cannot be deemed as mania related to bipolar disorder. Outside sources may include drugs, alcohol, or any other health-related problem.


A hypomanic episode refers to a time duration in which the symptoms of mania occur but in a relatively lesser intensity. Even if it is less-severe than mania, hypomania causes your behavior to differ from that in the everyday state.

The differences in behavior are extreme enough for people around you to notice. If an episode of hypomania is triggered by outside sources like alcohol or drugs, it is not indicative of bipolar disorder.


Depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder are similar to those of someone suffering from a clinical depression. These may involve periods of hopelessness and extreme sadness.

You are also likely to lose interest in people you were once close to and loved spending time with. Other symptoms of this state may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Problems in concentrating
  • Changes in the eating pattern
  • Suicidal thoughts

What are the Causes of Bipolar Disorder?

Scientists are yet to find out the exact causes of bipolar disorder. Abnormal physical characteristics of the brain or any disturbance in the brain chemicals are thought to be the possible reasons.

Just like a lot of other problems, bipolar disorder runs in the family. If you have had a parent or a sibling who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, your risk of developing it will also increase.

Researchers also tend to believe that stress, alcohol, or drugs are some of the triggers of bipolar disorder. Emotional disturbances may also be one of the reasons.

How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

A psychiatrist or any other mental health practitioner can diagnose bipolar disorder. The diagnosis involves taking complete medical history and looking for any symptoms that may be indicative of depression and mania.

A trained professional knows about the type of questions to ask. It is helpful to bring with you a family member or a spouse when you visit a doctor. They can also question on your behalf and explain the behaviors that you exhibit.

If you have symptoms that are diagnostic of bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder, you must tell your doctor immediately. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist if he finds you in a serious condition.

Sometimes, a blood test is also included in the process of diagnosis. The blood does not contain any markers for bipolar disorder but may also help in ruling out other pathologies.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Doctors usually treat bipolar disorder with psychotherapy and several medications.

The most commonly used drugs are mood stabilizers. You are supposed to take these drugs for longer durations. Lithium is a commonly used mood stabilizer that is known for years.

However, there are a lot of side effects associated with the use of lithium. These may include joint pain, thyroid functional disturbance, and indigestion.

In some cases, antipsychotics are also prescribed to control mania.

Keeping a track of your eating, sleeping, and mood pattern is an important part of the diagnosis. For this purpose, the doctors often recommend keeping a diary to record all these things.

This diary helps your doctor to understand your disease in more detail and suggest treatments accordingly. It will also him know if the current treatment plan is working for you or if you need a change in the plan.

Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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