What Is the Difference Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II?

October 13, 2023

Within the spectrum of bipolar disorder, there are two main subtypes: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. While both share similarities in symptoms, they also have distinct differences that set them apart. By understanding these variations, individuals affected by bipolar disorder and their loved ones can gain valuable insights into managing this condition effectively.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by intense shifts in energy levels, mood,  and activity. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually elevated and euphoric moods, known as mania or hypomania, along with episodes of depression. These mood swings can be severe and disruptive to daily life.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Two common signs of bipolar disorder are manic episodes and depressive episodes. During manic episode high phases, individuals may exhibit excessive energy, racing thoughts, increased self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, impulsivity, or risky behavior like excessive spending or substance abuse.

In contrast to the energetic highs of mania or hypomania, depressive episodes involve feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including social withdrawal, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and fatigue. It is important to note that the symptoms experienced during each phase can vary widely between individuals affected by bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I: Traits and Symptoms

Bipolar I disorder is characterized by at least one manic episode lasting at least 7 days or requiring hospitalization. Manic episodes are distinguishable by their extreme intensity and marked impairment in daily functioning.

Individuals with Bipolar I experience periods of mania, manifesting as elevated or irritable moods, racing thoughts, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, increased energy levels, impulsivity, or risky behaviors such as reckless spending or sexual promiscuity.

Alongside manic episodes, individuals may also go through depressive episodes similar to those experienced in major depression. These episodes involve persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite and weight, insomnia or excessive sleepiness, and fatigue.

In severe cases of Bipolar I disorder, psychotic symptoms may occur during manic episodes. This can include hallucinations, perceiving things that aren’t there, and delusions—or, strongly held false beliefs.

The shifts between the extremes of mania and depression often disrupt personal relationships, work performance, academic achievements, and overall quality of life due to the debilitating nature of these mood swings. 

It’s vital to note that not everyone with Bipolar I experiences a consistent pattern. Some individuals may alternate between long periods without significant symptoms, while others may have intense cycles happening more frequently throughout their lives.

Bipolar II: Traits and Symptoms

Bipolar II disorder is a subtype of bipolar disorder that involves recurrent episodes of major depression and hypomania, which is less severe than full-blown mania but still distinct from normal behavior. The key feature of Bipolar II is the presence of at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode.

Individuals with Bipolar II experience hypomanic episodes and periods of hypomania, characterized by a noticeable change in mood and behavior. Symptoms may include increased energy levels, heightened self-esteem or grandiosity, racing thoughts, talkativeness, reduced need for sleep without feeling overly tired, increased sociability, engaging in risky behaviors, or impulsive decision-making.

Similar to other forms of bipolar disorder, depressive episodes can be debilitating for individuals with Bipolar II. These episodes entail persistent sadness, hopelessness, despair, emptiness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in appetite and weight, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and difficulties concentrating or making decisions.

While the manic/hypomanic episodes experienced in Bipolar II are less intense than those seen in Bipolar I disorder, they can still cause significant disruption to daily functioning and relationships. In addition, research suggests individuals diagnosed with bipolar II have an increased risk for suicidal ideation and thoughts of self-harm compared to those diagnosed with other mental health disorders.

Bipolar I and Bipolar II Cyclothymic Disorder

Bipolar I and Bipolar II cyclothymic disorder is a milder and chronic condition characterized by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a full-blown manic or major depressive episode.

Individuals with cyclothymic disorder experience repeated episodes of hypomania, including increased energy levels, inflated self-esteem, racing thoughts, talkativeness, decreased need for sleep without feeling excessively tired, and impulsivity/risk-taking behaviors, though less extreme than in mania.

Individuals with cyclothymic disorder also go through episodes of depression but at a milder level. These episodes involve similar symptoms as Bipolar I and Bipolar II but are not as intense or severe. However, they can still affect one’s daily routines and functioning. 

Unlike the distinct highs and lows seen in Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorders that occur separately over time, cyclothymic disorder involves chronic mood instability marked by frequent shifts between subthreshold hypomania and mild depression within short durations lasting at least 2 years for adults.


The treatment approaches for Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder usually involve medication management, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. The primary goals of treatment are to stabilize mood swings, manage symptoms effectively, prevent relapses or exacerbations, and improve overall quality of life. Treatment plans are personalized to reflect the individual’s specific type of bipolar disorder and needs. 

Caring Bipolar Disorder Treatment in Chattanooga, TN

Take the first step towards a better life by seeking treatment for bipolar disorder at Time Wellness in Chattanooga, TN. Our experienced team guides you through evidence-based therapies, medication management, and lifestyle changes designed to help manage symptoms effectively. Don’t let bipolar disorder control your life.

Contact us today to regain stability and a happier and healthier future.