Bipolar II disorder (A complete guide)

Bipolar II disorder

 This article is a detailed overview of Bipolar II disorder (BPD-II) and discusses some pertinent aspects related to this disorder. Also, this article reveals possible symptoms, diagnostic aspects and possible treatments that offer insight into this problem.

Bipolar II disorder (A complete guide)

Bipolar II disorder is a psychological ailment that is characterized by alternating hypomanic and depressive periods. In this disease, an individual’s mood might suddenly go up or down over certain intervals of time. It resembles bipolar I disorder, but is different from it in terms of treatment and certain symptoms. 

It is to be noted that in this condition, the ‘up’ mood never really reaches an extreme. The intensity of the elevated moods is less and they are called hypomanic intervals or hypomania. 

An individual suffering from this condition will have at least once hypomanic interval in his life. But the depressive moods are more frequent in most patients. ‘Manic depression’ is a term used to refer to this type of depression. The low or down episodes are often long-lasting and cause traumatic mental effects. These depressive episodes can also pose a threat to one’s physical health.

During the up and down episodes, an individual is under the influence of the disorder. But between these intervals, the individuals are normal and stable. This means that the manic episodes are not long-lasting. Furthermore, extreme episodes or intense mood swings can be more damaging than short intervals. And long episodes also cause more mental and physical stress.

An individual suffering from this condition may be happy about something at one moment, and then the next, they may start getting depressive feelings all of a sudden. These ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ result in bad decisions and ultimately cause negative consequences as experienced by many individuals diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Poor decision making is one of the major symptoms of bipolar II disorder.

Prevalence

According to reports, this condition prevails among approximately 5.7 million individuals in the U.S., which is about 2.6% of total U.S. population aged between 18 and older. Bipolar II disorder starts showing symptoms in individuals when they are in their early childhood or when they are in their 40s or 50s.

Anyone can develop bipolar II disorder. Both females and males have equal chances of having it. Bipolar II disorder does not depend on an individual’s race, ethnicity or culture. It is common to all.

A female diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder is more likely to suffer from frequent mood changes than males with the same condition. According to research, females with this disorder show more intense depressive episodes, which are also more mixed than males with the same condition.

Bipolar II disorder (A complete guide)

At-risk Populations

Nearly 2.5% of the people of U.S are suffering from bipolar disorders, this makes about 6 million individuals. Technically a normal individual can develop bipolar II disorder.

Symptoms start appearing when the individuals are youngsters, in their teenage years or in early adulthood. Before the age of 50 years, all individuals diagnosed with bipolar II start showing symptoms. If one’s close relative has bipolar disorder, then there is a higher chance of him having the disorder as well.

Causes or Contributing Factors

The cause of Bipolar II disorder has not been discovered yet. It can be because of physical abnormalities in the brain structure or due to variation in certain specific brain chemicals.

Genes which cause this disorder are being searched for. Bipolar II also runs in families like many other similar mental illnesses. For example, if a close relative of an individual happens to be suffering from bipolar disorder, the individual will have a higher chance of developing it himself.

Other causes according to research, include stress, drug and alcohol abuse, traumatic incidents like the loss of a loved one or childhood abuse.

Risk factors 

There are some factors that may contribute to early onset of bipolar II disorder in individuals or increase the chance of developing the condition. These include:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Tragedies, for example, the death of a loved one.
  • Complications.
  • Having a family member who has previously been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.

Leaving bipolar II disorder untreated can possibly cause potential damage as it influences all aspects of one’s life. The damage caused may be in the form of the following few consequences. 

  • Suicidal feelings or thoughts.
  • Financial burden.
  • Legal complications.
  • Drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Domestic instability.
  • Low performance at work.
Bipolar II disorder (A complete guide)

Symptoms of Bipolar II Disorder

An individual going through depressive moods or a less intense form of mania called hypomania can be diagnosed for Bipolar II. Individuals with this disorder may suffer from symptoms of manic, but are also able to functional normally during daily life activities. They might even experience a positive increase in performance at work and at home, or towards achieving a certain goal.

Additionally, the ‘up’ moods are not as severe. An individual will not necessarily have to visit the hospital in case of a manic mood attack. An individual should exhibit at least 5 or more of the following characteristics to confirm that he is suffering from bipolar disorder.

  • Changes in sleep routine.
  • Changes in diet habits.
  • Weakness or lack of stamina.
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously liked by the individual.
  • Negative thoughts or depressed feelings.
  • Feelings of restlessness or being tired.
  • Inability to make even small decisions or difficulty in making decisions in general.
  • Guilty feelings or feeling unworthy.
  • Suicidal feelings or attempts.

 Treatment Options for Bipolar II Disorder

First of all, treatment for bipolar I is different from bipolar II. Treatment for bipolar II usually involves medications and psychotherapy. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar II are prone to longer intervals of depressive episodes than bipolar I individuals.

Medications

For bipolar II, following medications are usually prescribed:

  • Mood Stabilizers: These will help in reducing the intensity of manic episodes or hypomania.
  • Antipsychotics: These are usually prescribed along with mood stabilizers.
  • Antidepressants: These are used to help manage depression. As these may trigger a manic episode, hence they are prescribed along with mood stabilizers or antipsychotics.
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic: Several antidepressants contain a combination of an antidepressant with an antipsychotic. It helps as a mood stabilizer and treats depression.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT is used to indicate negative aspects of the individual’s behavior and beliefs. And then the therapy involves turning these negative aspects into positive ones by introducing healthy and optimistic beliefs.

Social rhythm therapy helps by promoting healthy routine changes in daily personal and social life. This helps the individual in managing his mood.

Joining support groups or treatment programs can help the individual learn helpful ways to cope or manage his bipolar disorder from people having the same condition. In case of extreme condition of an individual, the doctor may encourage him to get hospitalization in order to prevent harmful consequences.

Self-management strategies include altering your routine to make healthy changes in your eating, sleeping and other daily habits or activities. This will create awareness and confidence in the individual about his condition. And he will be more likely to easily manage his mood swings.

Some Helpful Resources

  1. If you want to gain a holistic understanding about the psychopathology of bipolar II disorder, then, the book titled: Bipolar II Disorder: Recognition, Understanding, and Treatment, is a great read.
  2. Another interesting book on bipolar-II disorder is, The Bipolar II Disorder Workbook: Managing Recurring Depression, Hypomania, and Anxiety (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)
  3. The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know is quite helpful when it comes to navigating through the uncertain pathway of recovery and management of this disorder. 
  4. My Bucket Has Holes: Living with Bipolar II is another great read.
  5. Bipolar II Disorder: Modelling, Measuring and Managing offers factual account on the disorder. 
Bipolar II disorder (A complete guide)

Conclusion

Bipolar II disorder is one of many mental illnesses present in the world. The best way to cope with this condition is by reaching out for treatment to avoid any possible mishaps. Early diagnosis and treatment will help manage the problem more efficiently and easily. It is to be noted that in case an individual feels like he may have the problem and possibly shows similar symptoms, then he should talk to his family and reach out to a doctor. 

If you know someone that might be going through this condition, you can show concern by recognizing the pattern changes in his behavior. Then let him know and proceed to recommend a visit to the doctor to get a medical evaluation. This will help avoid the situation from getting worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most commonly asked questions about bipolar II disorder are given below.

Are there any specific tests present to diagnose bipolar disorder?

There is no test available right now that can confirm whether you have the disorder or not. It is also highly unlikely that a single gene will be the cause of this disorder in each and every bipolar individual.

Is there a similar condition like bipolar II disorder where the symptoms are the same, but the illness is a different one?

Yes, there are some disorders which exhibit the same symptoms as bipolar II, but these are not related to it in any way. Some examples of these disorders include thyroid complications, neurological problems like epilepsy, stroke or brain tumors, brain infections, etc.

What to do in case someone you know happens to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder?

As a family member, you can begin by trying to indicate changes in the activities and behaviors of the individual. Talk to him and let him know, making sure you do not come off as being judgmental.

At work, if you know a colleague or someone suffering from this condition and they happen to exhibit any sort of foul behavior, then it should be reported to the authorities to prevent future mishaps.

As an individual suffering from this condition, will I have to take to receive medication for it throughout my life?

It is not necessary. But if the individual has been through a tragic incident due to his condition before, then the doctors will encourage him to continue taking medication. The tragic condition can be of any type, it may cause traumatic consequences for both the individual and his family.

How can you cope with your bipolar disorder?

First it is important to know each and every detail about your mental illness. You should visit doctors, read books and listen to related lectures to know yourself what you are going through. This will help you cope with your condition more easily. 

Similarly, you can talk to other individuals diagnosed with the same disorder. In addition to this, you can join support groups where you can relate with individuals with same condition. You can learn how they go about their lives, while managing their mood swings alongside.

How is lifestyle affected by bipolar II disorder?

Changes in sleeping and eating habits can cause unhealthy consequences, both for the individual and his family. One should opt for comfortable work choice and pleasure activities to improve both mental and physical health. Family members waking up and sleeping at the same time can improve mental relations between members, and promote a positive atmosphere at home.

References

Bipolar II disorder (A complete guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

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