What is bipolar 2 disorder?

When most people talk about bipolar 2 disorder, they are referring to bipolar I disorder, a mental illness where moods swing back and forth between episodes of mania and depression. Sufferers of bipolar II disorder face similar mood swings, but the “highs” are not full-blown episodes of mania. Their less-elevated highs are referred to as hypomania. Whereas manic episodes have obviously negative effects that prevent one from normal and safe functioning in their everyday lives, sufferers of hypomania are often just perceived as being in especially great moods.

Although an individual must suffer at least one hypomanic episode to qualify as having bipolar II disorder, they typically spend more of their time on the depression end of the mood spectrum. In fact, sufferers of bipolar II disorder may experience longer lasting and more severe bouts of depression than those suffering from bipolar I disorder, so it certainly isn’t an “easier” diagnosis to overcome. Those with bipolar 2 disorder are commonly misdiagnosed as having clinical depression, but the difference lies in having one or more episodes of hypomania.

What are the symptoms of bipolar 2 disorder?

Individuals with bipolar 2 disorder will exhibit symptoms of hypomanic and depressive episodes. Most will spend more time having extreme lows than extreme highs, and some may spend a majority of time exhibiting normal behavior, living most of their life between the two extremes.

Common symptoms of hypomanic episodes include an inflated sense of self-confidence and extremely high levels of energy or activity. Depressive episodes have symptoms much like those exhibited by sufferers of clinical depression, including low energy, feelings of worthlessness, and ideation of suicide.

What causes bipolar 2 disorder?

It is still unclear what causes bipolar 2 disorder—or how to prevent it. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that brain structure and functioning, genetics, and family history are all potential contributing factors to an increased risk of bipolar disorder. In particular, having an immediate family member with bipolar II disorder seems to increase the likelihood of a diagnosis; The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study that found 40% of participants with immediate family members diagnosed with bipolar II disorder were also diagnosed with the disorder themselves.

What are the risks of untreated bipolar 2 disorder?

It is quite easy for an individual with bipolar 2 disorder to go undiagnosed and untreated. Since hypomania can be mistaken as “just” an especially good mood, sufferers are commonly misdiagnosed with clinical depression. With a proper diagnosis, psychotherapy and mood stabilizing medications can help treat bipolar II disorder.

Although experts haven’t discovered a way to prevent bipolar II disorder completely, diagnosed sufferers can undergo extensive therapy to learn how to recognize the warning signs of an impending manic or depressive episode. This knowledge empowers them to respond quickly and appropriately. On the other hand, without an accurate diagnosis, individuals cannot learn those signs and are at a higher risk of full-blown mania and intense depression.

Those without an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment method often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol only exacerbate the problem and put the user at a greater risk of longer and more intense bouts of depression. The dangers of depression include self-harm and suicide.

What should I do if I or someone I know has bipolar 2 disorder?

Although bipolar II disorder can’t be cured, it can be managed through psychotherapy and medication. If you or someone you know has turned to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate, please know that there is a safer and more effective way to ease the emotional pain of the highs and lows of bipolar II disorder. Those who suffer from bipolar II disorder and a dependency on drugs or alcohol may respond well to a dual diagnosis treatment.

Contact Hawaii Island Recovery today to take your first steps towards freedom and a healthier, more stable life.