Types of bipolar disorder

There are several different types of bipolar disorder. Each is based on whether the person has more trouble with depression or mania and how often mood cycles occur.1

Bipolar I

Considered the classic form of the illness, bipolar I causes recurrent episodes of mania and depression. The depression may last for a short time or for months. The person may then go back to feeling normal for a time, or he or she may go right into a manic episode.

Bipolar II

People who have bipolar II experience depression just as in bipolar I. But the episodes of mania are less severe (hypomania). People with bipolar II have more depressive than hypomanic episodes.

Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder

People with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder experience at least four episodes of depression, mania, or both within a 12-month period. They may go directly from an episode of depression to an episode of mania, or they may have a short time lapse between the two moods. The mood swings are the same as with other types of bipolar, but the frequency of mood swings distinguishes rapid-cycling bipolar disorder from the other subtypes.

Some people with bipolar disorder may have mixed symptoms, in which depression and mania occur together. Symptoms include sadness, euphoria, and irritability. Other symptoms can include agitation, lack of sleep, appetite changes and, possibly, thoughts of suicide. This can make the disorder challenging to treat and very frustrating to live with.


  1. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Bipolar disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text rev., pp. 382–397. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Last Updated: March 14, 2008

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