Understanding the Difference Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder

Each year, more than 3.3 million Americans experience bipolar disorder. Knowing the difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder can help you gain a better understanding of this condition, especially if your loved one has bipolar disorder or you think you may have it.

Here’s a look at how these two types differ from one another and where you can find treatment for bipolar disorder today.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes people to experience extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder will experience periods of emotional highs and lows known as episodes.

Periods of emotional highs are known as “mania” and include symptoms of extreme happiness (euphoria), high energy, increased confidence, and talkativeness. Periods of emotional lows are known as depression and include symptoms of sadness, low energy, guilt, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.

Scientists do not know the true cause of bipolar disorder but suspect it may be caused by physical changes in the brain, genetics, and the environment. Children may develop bipolar disorder if one of their parents or a sibling has it. Bipolar disorder may also be triggered by substance abuse or a major life event such as a trauma.

How Are Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder Different?

The episodes of mania in Bipolar I Disorder are often more severe than the episodes of mania in Bipolar II Disorder. People experiencing Bipolar I may engage in behaviors that are extremely harmful to their well-being, such as spending lots of money on things they don’t need or having unsafe sex with multiple partners. In comparison, the episodes of mania in Bipolar II Disorder are often less severe and less noticeable.

People with Bipolar II Disorder may not experience episodes of major depression. They may feel more sad than usual, but their sadness and other depression symptoms will not often disrupt their usual daily activities. In comparison, people with Bipolar I Disorder may experience major depressive episodes that are severe and increase the risk of hospitalization and suicide.

What Are Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Type I and type II bipolar disorder both produce symptoms of mania and depression. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you or a loved one may have bipolar disorder.

  • Have you ever felt so happy or hyper that other people thought you were not your normal self?
  • Do you ever find that you get much less sleep than usual, but didn’t really miss it?
  • Are there times you are much more social or outgoing than usual? For example, have you ever called your friends in the middle of the night?
  • Are there times you engage in lots of risky behaviors, such as having unsafe sex or abusing drugs and alcohol?
  • Do you ever become extremely irritable for no obvious reason, and start fights with friends and family?
  • Do you ever experience extreme fluctuations in your appetite or weight?
  • Do thoughts of suicide ever enter your mind, or have you ever attempted suicide?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, it’s important to speak to your doctor about your symptoms.

How Are Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder Treated?

Talk therapy and medications are common treatments for Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorder. Talk therapy can teach you how to manage your symptoms, such as how to effectively handle stress and develop a healthy sleep routine. Medications including antidepressants and antipsychotics may help reduce symptoms of depression.

If you believe you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, talk to your primary care physician and discuss whether tele-health or in-person treatment is best for you. If you have thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide crisis number at 800-273-8255. If you are considering acting on your thoughts, please call 911 or go to your local Emergency Department to get the support you may need.

Valera Health provides tele-mental health care to people with mental health disorders including bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety disorders. Request a consultation with us today and get started on your personal journey to improved health and wellness.


  1. https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/bipolar/
  2. https://mhanational.org/conditions/bipolar-disorder
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what-is-hypomania