Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II: The difference all comes down to the high

Someone asked me the other day what type of Bipolar Disorder I have.

I have Bipolar II.

Knowing it’s “less severe” than Bipolar I, she asked why I even bother to blog about it. I wasn’t offended but that’s like asking someone why they bother to have their broken arm put in a cast. It’s not like it’s their leg or anything.

I know the disorder is hard to understand. I have it and sometimes I still struggle to grasp it all. If you have friends or family trying to wrap their heads around Bipolar Disorder and what it means for you, I encourage you to send this to them.

I’m going to do my best to break down the nuts and bolts for you:

There are two main types of Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar I And Bipolar II. There are others considered to be on the Bipolar spectrum but let’s just stick with those for now.

Bipolar I is the biggie. Hollywood loves it and their characters often fall in line with traits associated with it. Hallmark traits include mania and depression. In fact it’s where Bipolar Disorder derivatives it’s original name Manic Depression. Roughly 6 million Americans live with it every day.

According to the ever popular website WebMD, “People in manic episodes may spend money far beyond their means, have sex with people they wouldn’t otherwise, or pursue grandiose, unrealistic plans. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely.”

I’m not a fan of consulting Dr. Google but there it is anyway. Full blown mania often requires hospitalization. Mania is what distinguishes Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Both disorders come with severe depression but Bipolar II causes hypomania, a less severe but still destructive form of mania. This is why Bipolar II is thought by many to be the lesser of two evils.

Here is where I will offer my two cents. There is nothing mild about hypomania. It can turn your life upside down. Don’t believe me? Read my blog post on it.

There is still a lot of doubt in my own mind as to whether or not it was full blown mania, but that’s a topic for another post.

The characteristics of mania include: flying suddenly from one idea to the next; rapid “pressured” (uninterruptable), and loud speech; increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep; inflated self-image; excessive spending ; and hypersexuality and substance abuse.

No two people will experience mania the same way but that’s the overall current criteria to be diagnosed manic. Now for Hypomania: It’s a condition similar to mania but it’s difficult to diagnose if the treating psychiatrist isn’t familiar with the patient before onset. For some it may just seem like an extremely happy state of mind. The symptoms are similar to mania with elevated mood, increased activity, decreased need for sleep, grandiosity, racing thoughts, and the like. It is said that Hypomania does not interfere with one’s work or social functions. I beg to differ.

Hypomania is what most people think of when assuming Bipolar people enjoy their disorder. Some people with Bipolar II actually look forward to that state of being. It’s certainly better than the alternative.

It can produce a heightened sense of creativity and power. However, Hypomania can subtly impair a person’s judgment. Too much confidence can conceal the consequences of decisions. That is why I don’t agree that it doesn’t interfere with every day life.

How can it not if the consequences of our actions are muddled?

Unfortunately both above mentioned types of Bipolar Disorder come with severe and often deadly depression. Think the exact opposite of mania and hypomania. Suicidal thoughts, the inability to do normal daily tasks, hopelessness – all come alongside the great abyss.

To make a long story short, I blog because Bipolar Disorder effects me and my everyday life – hence Daybydaybipolar.

My cognitive abilities are hindered. It’s difficult to remember important events – both past and future. It’s hard for me to calm down after becoming angry or excited and I have to be very careful when I’m sad because it can quickly turn into depression. And last but not least I must remain vigilant for signs of Hypomania. It’s derailed my life once, I fight not to let it happen again.

There’s nothing mild about what I experience. I don’t care what the label is. I’m Bipolar and it’s a tough way to live but I take it day by day.

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