Bipolar 2 disorder is a type of mental illness that causes sufferers to have low and high mood cycles over time. This form of mental illness is similar to bipolar 1 disorder, but not as severe. The up mood swings seen in bipolar 2 disorder never reach the full-on mania evident in bipolar 1. The less intense mood swings found in bipolar 2 disorder are often referred to as hypomania or hypomanic episodes versus the manic episodes or mania evidenced in bipolar 1.
To be diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder a person must have at least one hypomanic episode at some point in his/her life. Many who have this disease will also have periods of depression. Often people with bipolar 2 will lead normal lives in between the cycles of depression and hypomania.
Symptoms of Bipolar 2 Disorder
A hypomanic episode is an elevated mood that may manifest as irritability or euphoria which is a feeling of exaggerated elation.
Hypomanic episodes can be seen if someone quickly switches from one mood to the next, if they talk loud and fast or have period of hyperactivity, seem to need less sleep and yet have increased energy. Those with bipolar 2 disorder can be lots of fun during a hypomanic episode. They are typically up for any type of activity – want to party, tell jokes and may be very interested in other people. Their seriously positive mood may seem harmless.
But the bad part of this disease is that a hypomanic episode may lead to unhealthy behaviors like spending money they don’t have, doing impulsive and risky things and even to having sexual relations with people they normally wouldn’t be with.
The opposite cycle of bipolar disorder is depression. Those with bipolar 2 can have considerable depressive periods. These episodes of depression can occur right after the hypomania or a long time after an up period. The symptoms of depression with bipolar 2 disorder mimic clinical depression. They include fatigue, not having any energy, feeling worthless or guilty, not taking pleasure in anything, having a depressed mood that can include thoughts of suicide. These depressive episodes can last for weeks, months, and even years.
Those suffering from bipolar 2 can go through consistent cycles or have a long normal time between the episodes. If those with bipolar 2 disorder don’t get treated, then the episodes can last from days to years. Typically symptoms will last from several weeks to several months.
Bipolar 2 Disorder Versus Bipolar 1 Disorder
Those suffering from bipolar 1 disorder have true manic-depressive episodes that swing from an abnormally elevated mood with severely erratic behavior, to sever bouts of depression. These manic symptoms typically cause a serious disruption in the bipolar person’s life that causes major personal, legal, and other problems.
Bipolar 2 disorder is a milder form of Bipolar 1 disorder. The highs aren’t quite as high, and the lows don’t reach the depths of depression found in bipolar 1. This milder form can still cause problems but typically they aren’t as severe as is found with bipolar 1.
Those at Risk for Bipolar 2 Disorder
About two and a half percent of the population of the United States has some type of bipolar disorder. That is close to six million people. Commonly the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder will show up when someone is in their teens or early twenties and has developed if it is going to before you reach fifty years of age. If you have a blood family member with any version of bipolar disease you have a higher risk of getting the disease.
A visual guide to help you understand bipolar disorder can be found here.
Prevention of Bipolar 2 Disorder
Doctors and scientists don’t really understand all the things that can cause bipolar 2 disorder. There is no known preventative for the entirety of the disease; however, some hypomania and depression episodes can be prevented. This is possible once the disease has been diagnosed and the individual’s episodes have been studied.
Treatment and prevention options include consistent sessions with a social worker or psychologist for therapy. This might help the bipolar sufferer learn how to stabilize their mood and feel better overall. Other treatment methods can include prescription drugs, hospitalization, and some natural treatments that include a sugar-free diet and a regimen of supplements.
Bipolar 2 disorder is a milder form of bipolar 1. The sufferer of Bipolar 2 will typically cycle between episodes of hypomania and depression. These episodes can last days, weeks, or months, and are typically shortened with treatment. Bipolar 2 disorder can cause personal, legal, financial, and other problems. Bipolar 2 symptoms often start in the teen years and can strike anyone. It is believed that there is a genetic connection so if there is anyone in your family that has a bipolar disorder you are at increased risk for it.