9 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
Fact checked

Bipolar disorder encompasses different types, with Bipolar I and Bipolar II being the most prevalent. Both types can significantly impact daily life, relationships, and work, emphasizing the importance of accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment approaches.

People with bipolar disorder may experience intense periods of elevated energy, heightened irritability, racing thoughts, and impulsivity during manic episodes, while depressive episodes involve feelings of intense sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating. These mood swings can vary in intensity and frequency, impacting a person’s ability to function in daily life. 

Bipolar disorder requires lifelong management through a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments to help individuals maintain stability and lead fulfilling lives.

Bipolar disorder isn’t just feeling happy one moment and sad the next. It’s more complex, with varying degrees of intensity and duration. Two significant types are Bipolar I and Bipolar II.

Bipolar I is like a roller coaster ride through extreme mood swings. The defining feature is manic episodes periods of intense high energy, impulsiveness, and euphoria usually followed by depressive episodes.

Bipolar II is a bit different. It involves milder manic episodes, known as hypomania, and more pronounced depressive episodes. People with Bipolar II may function relatively well during hypomanic episodes but struggle significantly during depressive ones [1]. 

Key Differences Between Bipolar I and II

Manic Episodes Intensity: In Bipolar I, manic episodes are severe and can even lead to hospitalization due to their intensity and potential for risky behavior. Bipolar II experiences hypomanic episodes, which are less extreme and don’t usually require hospitalization [1].

Depressive Episodes: Both types have depressive episodes, but in Bipolar II, they’re often more prolonged and disruptive compared to Bipolar I. The lows can be deeper and more frequent.

Diagnosis Challenges: Diagnosing Bipolar II can be trickier since the hypomanic episodes might not be as noticeable or disruptive as the full-blown manic episodes in Bipolar I.

Treatment Approaches: Treatment strategies can vary. Bipolar I might require more aggressive interventions, including hospitalization during severe manic episodes. Bipolar II could often be managed with medications and therapy without hospitalization.

Statistics Regarding Bipolar I and II

Prevalence: Bipolar I is less common, affecting around 1% of the population, while Bipolar II is estimated to affect about 2.5% of adults in the United States.

Gender Differences: Both types of bipolar disorder can affect any gender, but some studies suggest that Bipolar II might be slightly more prevalent in women. However, more research is needed in this area [1].

Age of Onset: Bipolar I often manifests in late adolescence or early adulthood. Bipolar II might surface later, usually in the mid-20s or 30s.

Bipolar disorder comes in different shades, and understanding the symptoms of Bipolar I and Bipolar II is key to proper diagnosis and treatment.

Manic Episodes

Manic episodes in Bipolar I are intense, causing extreme highs characterized by heightened energy, racing thoughts, and risky behavior. These episodes often lead to hospitalization due to their severity.

Hypomanic episodes in Bipolar II are less extreme than in Bipolar I. They involve a milder form of elevated mood, increased energy, and creativity. While they might feel good, they aren’t as intense and don’t lead to severe disruptions in daily life or hospitalization [2]. 

Depressive Episodes

Depressive episodes in Bipolar I are marked by intense sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and sometimes suicidal thoughts or behaviors. These episodes are as crucial in Bipolar I as the manic episodes.

Depressive episodes in Bipolar II can be more frequent and prolonged. The lows are deeper and can significantly impact daily life, making it challenging to function normally. This might include difficulty in concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, or thoughts of self-harm. 

Mixed Features

It’s possible to experience mixed episodes in Bipolar I, where symptoms of both mania and depression occur simultaneously. This combination can be extremely distressing and challenging to manage.

While less common than in Bipolar I, mixed episodes can still occur in Bipolar II, presenting a combination of depressive and hypomanic symptoms. This can create a chaotic emotional state.

Pinpointing whether someone has Bipolar I or Bipolar II involves careful observation, analysis, and assessment by mental health professionals. Understanding the methods used can shed light on the nuances between these two conditions.

Clinical Evaluation

Symptom Analysis: Mental health professionals conduct thorough interviews to evaluate mood swings, the intensity and duration of highs and lows, and the impact on daily life. They look for patterns in mood changes and their effects on behavior.

Family History: Examining family history for any signs of mood disorders can provide essential clues in diagnosing either Bipolar I or Bipolar II. Genetics plays a role in predisposition to these conditions [1].

Assessment Tools

Questionnaires and Rating Scales: These tools help in assessing mood swings, depressive symptoms, and the presence of hypomania or mania. Commonly used scales include the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) and the Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale (BSDS). They assist in identifying the severity and frequency of symptoms.

Daily Mood Charts: Keeping a daily record of mood changes, sleep patterns, and other relevant behaviors helps professionals track and analyze mood fluctuations over time. This can reveal distinct patterns associated with either Bipolar I or II.

Differentiation Challenges

Hypomania Recognition: Identifying hypomanic episodes can be tricky as they might not be as obvious or disruptive as full-blown mania. Patients might not recognize these episodes as problematic or seek help for them, making diagnosis challenging.

Overlapping Symptoms: Some symptoms of Bipolar I and Bipolar II, especially during depressive episodes, can overlap with other mental health conditions like major depressive disorder. This similarity can complicate diagnosis and necessitate a careful assessment of the patient’s history and symptoms. [2]

Specialized Assessment

Psychiatric Evaluation: A comprehensive evaluation by a psychiatrist or mental health professional trained in mood disorders is vital. They can delve deeper into the patient’s history, conduct detailed interviews, and use specialized diagnostic criteria to differentiate between Bipolar I and II.

Longitudinal Assessment: Observing mood patterns and episodes over an extended period helps in distinguishing between the two types. It’s not just about a single moment but analyzing the frequency, duration, and impact of mood swings over time.

Managing Bipolar I and Bipolar II involves a combination of therapies and medications. Understanding the differences in treatment approaches can significantly impact how individuals cope with these conditions.

Medication Strategies

Bipolar I Treatment Focus: Given the severity of manic episodes, the treatment for Bipolar I often involves medications that target mania, like mood stabilizers (such as lithium or valproate) and sometimes antipsychotics during acute manic episodes. These medications aim to stabilize mood and reduce the intensity of manic episodes.

Bipolar II Medication Approach: For Bipolar II, the emphasis might be more on managing depressive episodes since hypomanic episodes are less severe. Antidepressants are often prescribed alongside mood stabilizers or antipsychotics to alleviate depressive symptoms. However, the use of antidepressants in Bipolar II can be controversial due to the risk of triggering hypomanic episodes.

Psychotherapy And Counseling

Bipolar I and Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), plays a significant role in managing Bipolar I. These therapies focus on mood regulation, managing stress, and identifying triggers for mood episodes.

Bipolar II Counseling Approaches: Similar psychotherapies are used for Bipolar II, emphasizing mood stabilization, managing depressive symptoms, and recognizing early signs of hypomania. The goal is to prevent mood swings and their impact on daily life. 

Hospitalization Needs

Bipolar I Severe Episodes: The severity of manic episodes in Bipolar I might necessitate hospitalization for stabilization and safety. Hospitalization can provide a structured environment and close monitoring during acute phases.

Bipolar II Hospitalization Consideration: Hospitalization is less common in Bipolar II due to the milder nature of hypomanic episodes. However, in severe cases of depression or if there’s a risk of harm to oneself or others, hospitalization might be considered [1]. 

Lifestyle Changes And Support

Bipolar I and II: Importance of Routine: Both types benefit from maintaining a routine, including consistent sleep patterns, exercise, and stress management. Support from family, friends, and support groups can be beneficial in coping with the challenges of bipolar disorder.

Self-Management Strategies: Learning about the condition, recognizing triggers, and developing coping strategies are crucial for individuals with Bipolar I or II. Education about the illness helps in early intervention and preventing episodes [2]. 

Treatment Response And Adjustments

Monitoring Response to Medications: Regular follow-ups with mental health professionals are essential to monitor how individuals respond to medications. Adjustments might be necessary based on the effectiveness and side effects of the prescribed drugs.

Individualized Treatment Plans: Treatment plans are highly individualized, considering the specific symptoms, response to medications, and impact on daily life. Adjustments in medications or therapy approaches are made accordingly. 

1. Healthline. Bipolar 1 Disorder and Bipolar 2 Disorder: What Are the Differences?

2. Cleveland Clinic. Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II: Breaking Down the Differences.



The Balance RehabClinic is a leading provider of luxury addiction and mental health treatment for affluent individuals and their families, offering a blend of innovative science and holistic methods with unparalleled individualised care.


a successful and proven concept focusing on underlying causes


0 Before

Send Admission Request

0 Before

Define Treatment Goals

1 week

Assessments & Detox

1-4 week

Psychological & Holistic Therapy

4 week

Family Therapy

5-8 week


12+ week

Refresher Visit

Bipolar Insights

latest news & research on Bipolar
Dysphoric Mania
Dysphoric Mania

Dysphoric mania is an intricate and demanding state because it combines the features of mania, such as increased energy and impulsivity, with the signs of depression and its discomfort

read more
How to Support a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder: Our Tips

read more
Bipolar Disorder: Common Misconceptions & Our Unique Approach

Bipolar Disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. It is estimated that every 1 out of a 100 people have bipolar disorder.

read more
Hypomania Symptoms

Hypomania refers to a distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood that lasts for at least four consecutive days

read more


British Psychology Society
Institute de terapia neural
pro mesotherapie
Somatic Experience


Woman & Home
National World
American Banker
Marie Claire
La Nacion
Metro UK
General Anzeiger
Live Science
Mallorca Magazin
Apartment Therapy
Express UK
Manager Magazin
Entrepreneur ME
Khaleej Times
Business Leader
The Guardian
Daily Mail
Mallorca Zeitung
Mirror Uk
The Times
The Standard
The Stylist