Bipolar 2 Disorder

Jourdan Travers, LCSW, discusses the similarities and differences between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | December 8, 2021

In this post, I want to take time to discuss Bipolar 2 disorder because I've received questions from clients in the past, such as:

  • What is Bipolar 2 disorder?
  • How to tell the difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2?
  • And, do more people have Bipolar 1 or 2?

So let's jump right into it!

Before we start, it's important that you know that I'm a licensed clinical psychotherapist and the Clinical Director of Awake Therapy. Although the content of these posts is educational in nature and not meant to serve as a substitute for individual psychotherapy, you can always book a time to speak to either me or a member of the Awake Therapy team by clicking here.

Bipolar I and Bipolar II are the most common and severe subtypes of Bipolar Disorder, with Bipolar I being the most acute and severe of the two, and the one that is diagnosed most frequently.

The main difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 is:

  • Bipolar I REQUIRES a manic episode with or without a depressive episode
  • Bipolar II REQUIRES at least one hypomanic state and depressive episode and those with Bipolar II typically have longer and more frequent depressive episodes

You might be wondering, what is hypomania, and is there a difference between mania and hypomania?

The truth is that mania and hypomania are VERY similar! The difference is that a manic state lasts 7+ days and a hypomanic state lasts at least 4 days. The behaviors are the same and include those listed in my previous post on Bipolar I disorder, such as:

  • Poor decision making
  • Exaggerated self-confidence
  • Racing thoughts
  • Going long periods of time with little or no sleep

Treating Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2

The treatment for Bipolar I and II is similar and includes psychotherapy and medication. However, those with a less severe form of Bipolar II can manage their symptoms without medication and use lifestyle medicine recommendations such as:

  • Prioritizing quality sleep
  • Eating more plants
  • Reducing caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco consumption
  • Exercising and managing stress, which has been shown to have a big difference in the severity and frequency of hypomanic states

Where does Bipolar disorder come from?

You might be wondering what brings on a manic or hypomanic state. Well, a lot of different things can lead to these states. In past articles, I've discussed how therapists like myself do a Bio-Psycho-Social to get a better picture and understanding of a patient's background. Things like genetic factors, environment, relationships, legal and financial questions are all important factors to consider when attempting to understand the root cause of a manic or depressive episode. Oftentimes, individuals experience a manic or hypomanic state due to genetics, or from:

  • Using drugs and alcohol
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Certain medications or medication interactions
  • Major life changes (i.e., death of a loved one, divorce, job loss)
  • Job stress

It's important to realize that living with Bipolar I or II disorder is manageable, and it does not mean that your life is ruined. In fact, some of the most exceptional people in history have struggled with Bipolar or related disorders. Working with your doctor on a medication plan that is right for you, along with identifying effective coping skills with your therapist, and utilizing resources like friends and family can help you feel more in control after receiving your diagnosis.