Friday, August 17, 2012

Bipolar 1 & 2, What's the difference?

Bipolar Disorder (formerly called manic depression) is an illness that at times even the sufferer doesn't fully understand. Most people don't even realize there are couple of forms of bipolar, or if they do, they don't understand the differences. So here I will attempt to detail the differences between bipolar 1 & bipolar 2.

Both forms of the disorder have 2 things in common which helps with the initial diagnosis of bipolar. First, you must have suffered episodes of clinical depression, which is often the only thing you will be treated for initially. I found that getting a new diagnosis after being diagnosed & treated for depression (which didn't help at all) to be very difficult. Secondly, you must have had periods of feeling 'high' (mania). Everybody feels happy or sad at times, but bipolar sufferers feel these emotions far more deeply, and the swings between the highs & lows are usually extreme & can occur quite suddenly.

Bipolar 1 Disorder is the more severe form of the illness. A sufferer will experience at least one full blown manic episode. These episodes will have longer highs & often feature psychotic experiences (hallucinations, delusions, distorted reality, strange/bizarre activities). These people are more likely to be hospitalized.

A full manic episode will usually last for over a week and include at least 3 of the following:
  • Inflated self-esteem/ego, often with grandiose thoughts & ideas
  • Much more talkative than usual
  • Belief that thoughts are racing or prolific ideas
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Can be easily distracted
  • Increased goal-directed activity & possible recklessness in actions
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable/high risk activities (spending sprees, risky investments, gambling, sexual indiscretions, etc)
Bipolar 2 Disorder is usually defined as being less severe and without psychotic episodes. Sufferers will have one or more episodes of hypomania lasting from a few hours to a few days. The distinction between mania & hypomania can be difficult to spot but the inability to function 'normally' is usually much less in hypomania. Additionally, those with bipolar 2 generally don't require hospitalization due to the lower severity of the highs.

Sadly, getting a correct diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder can take years, it took me almost 11 to get my initial diagnosis after being diagnosed with major depression. This was despite me 'knowing' I had more than just depression for a number of years. I just couldn't seem to get it across to those who could help. So if you feel you may have undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder, don't give up - the correct diagnosis & treatment can be a life saver, literally!

Lots of good (and bad) information on these disorders can be found online. A couple of good resources are the Black Dog Institute & the Bipolar Disorder websites. Both these are Australian sites, but mental illness has no boundaries so the information is relevant to all.

Please remember, if you feel you or someone you know are suffering from a mental illness of any form, please seek qualified medical advice ASAP! 

Take care until next time.


The information contained in this blog can not be considered medical advice. These are only my own thoughts, feelings & ideas. If you or someone you know are having problems with mental illness please seek qualified medical advice.

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