What’s the Difference Between Bipolar II & Bipolar I?

bipolar i vs bipolar ii

The simple answer?

This is a topic covered all over the web, but usually not fully. The simplest answer is that people with Bipolar I experience mania, and people with Bipolar II experience hypomania. During hypomania and mania, a person’s mood is very high-energy. It could be good or bad.

In the official definition, the line between hypomania and mania isn’t actually all that clear-cut. In practice, and for our purposes, for a diagnosis of Bipolar I the person needs to experience psychosis – delusions or hallucinations – during mania.

Another difference between Bipolar I and II is that while people with Bipolar I don’t actually need to experience episodes of depression for a diagnosis, people with Bipolar II do need to. In fact, people with Bipolar II usually experience depression much more than they do hypomania.

Is Bipolar I more severe than Bipolar II?

One very prevalent myth is that Bipolar II is just a less severe form of the disorder. The myth is probably common because people with Bipolar I experience mania, which is very noticeably disabling – not to mention noticeable.

Not that hypomania isn’t noticeable. Friends might notice that you’re speaking faster, or have more ideas. However, you aren’t under the delusion that you’re on the verge of discovering the secret to eternal life, about the become the rabbit king, or seeing demons.

What people don’t know is that studies have found folks with Bipolar II have symptoms 50% of the time, and in one study only 25% of people became symptom-free with appropriate treatment. Studies have also shown that people with Bipolar II have, overall, a lower quality of life than people with Bipolar I.

Bottom line – Bipolar II is absolutely not a less severe form of Bipolar Disorder.

The different types of Bipolar Disorder all have similarities and differences. Many people get diagnosed with one type only to be re-diagnosed with another, later on. For more on all the different types of Bipolar Disorder, check out this series of articles.


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