Bipolar Disorder Types


The four major Bipolar Disorder Types are Bipolar type II, Bipolar type I, Cyclothymic Disorder and Bipolar NOS .


The categories of the DSM  may be faulty in many ways but they are useful in to help us conceptualize the illness. There is overlap between Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar I , Bipolar II, and other disorders.  Many individuals who are diagnosed with depression are later diagnosed as suffering from Bipolar Disorder.  The categories are really just ways to think about grouping people with different types of bipolar disorder or  mood disorders. 


If you have one of these diagnoses and are wondering what it means, or your child’s paperwork reflects they do, I hope the information below helps you decipher these categories. 



Usually children do not receive these diagnoses unless they are older or actually meet the criteria. More often than not they will have a Bipolar Disorder NOS, or a Mood Disorder NOS diagnosis.


Bipolar Disorder Types:Bipolar Type II


Bipolar type II consists of one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode  A person cannot be diagnosed with Bipolar type II disorder if they have had a manic or mixed episode</a>. Essentially, Bipolar II disorder consists of below the threshold mania, or, hypomania as opposed to mania is not as disruptive to a person's functioning.

Learn all about episodes here


Bipolar II = Major Depressive Episode + Hypomania


Bipolar Disorder Types:Bipolar Type I


Bipolar I on the other hand consists of one or more manic or mixed episodes. Technically no depressive episode must be present but it almost always is. 


Bipolar I =Full Manic Episode or Mixed Episode


In classifying the diagnoses of BPD, Doctors have the option to be more detailed by adding certain bits of descriptive information. 


They will describe the most recent episode as manic, hypomanic, mixed or depressed.


They may further clarify the diagnosis by describing whether there are:




  • psychotic features
  • no psychotic features
  •  catatonic features


or a 

Postpartum onset



They may describe it even further by specifying rapid cycling, with a seasonal pattern, or describing the periods of recovery between the episodes.



Cycling can be conceptualized as below:



Rapid cycling= 4 episodes a year


Ultra rapid cycling =5 episodes and up


Ultradian cycling= 365 days a year( daily cycling)



Bipolar Disorder Types:Cyclothymia



Cyclothymia is a mood disorder that consists of two years of episodes of hypo mania and low grade depression.  To be diagnosed with cyclothymia, you cannot have had a major depressive, mixed or manic episode during the first two year period of time.


Later if you have periods of mania or major depression you can be diagnosed with both Cyclothymia and Bipolar I or Bipolar II.



These symptoms must cause impairment and distress and cannot be due to a medical condition or medication or substance abuse.



Bipolar Disorder Types: Bipolar NOS



Generally this is diagnosed when the mood disorder meets none of the criteria of the other types of bipolar disorder. Because there is no specific category for children and they often don't meet adult criteria due to symptoms looking different, this is more often the diagnosis they will be given.



Learn more about bipolar here:

Leave Bipolar Disorder types to learn about Bipolar In Children

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Checklist for child diagnosis

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Check out our online facebook support community for parents of kids with mood disorder. 

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