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What is Bipolar Disorder, Type 2? An Overview

written by: M. Staker • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 9/10/2010

Bipolar disorder type 2 is a very complex mood disorder that results in dramatic mood swings in those with the disorder. Find out more about this disorder, including the symptoms, causes, and treatments.

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    An Overview of Bipolar Disorder Type 2

    Bipolar disorder type 2 is a mental disorder that is categorized by cycles of elevated mood and depression. A person with this disorder will cycle between these two extremes throughout their life. A cycle can last for several days, weeks, months, or in rare cases, just a few hours. Most people have periods of time in between cycles where they function normally, but some people can cycle several times in one day. This disorder is different than other types of bipolar disorder because the person does not ever experience episodes of mania, instead their elevated mood is referred to as hypomania. In order to be diagnosed with this disorder, the individual must have experienced at least one cycle of hypomania in their lifetime. People with this disorder usually begin to show symptoms during their late teens or early twenties, but it can be diagnosed much earlier.

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    Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder Type 2

    The symptoms of this disorder will be different depending on the cycle that the person is in at the time. Some of the symptoms of hypomania are rapid speech, increased energy levels, a euphoric feeling, and a lack of need for sleep. During this episode, they are a lot of fun to be around, but their behavior can become erratic, leading them to do things that are out of the ordinary. They may become impulsive and take risks that they normally would not take. During a depressive episode, their behavior will be the exact opposite of when they are experiencing hypomania. A depressive episode can come on immediately after hypomania, or it could take weeks or months to appear. During this episode, the person will behave just like someone who is experiencing clinical depression. They may begin to sleep a lot, have little to no energy, and have feelings of worthlessness. These feelings can lead to suicide or suicidal thoughts, so this is a very dangerous episode for many. This episode can last from a few days to a few years, and is the most likely time for the person to seek treatment. Since they enjoy the state of hypomania, they normally do not seek treatment during that episode because they feel they do not need it.

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    What Causes Bipolar 2 Disorder and How It Is Diagnosed

    To date, there is no known cause of this disorder, but it seems to be more common in people who are closely related to someone else with some type of bipolar disorder. This fact leads researchers to believe that genetics is the major cause of bipolar disorder type 2.

    As of now, there are no tests that can be performed to officially diagnose this disorder, but they are often done in an effort to rule out any medical explanation for the behavior. If the disorder is suspected by a medical doctor, they will most likely refer the patient to a psychiatrist who is trained to diagnose it. After all possible medical reasons have been ruled out, a psychiatrist may perform a variety of diagnostic tests in order to diagnose the disorder. He or she may also consult with family members to get information from them that may be helpful. Once the disorder is diagnosed, the psychiatrist will then begin to treat it.

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    Treatment for Bipolar Disorder Type 2

    There are a variety of different treatment methods that have shown to treat the symptoms of this disorder. The most common treatments that are used are prescription medication and therapy. Typical medications that will be used are mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipshychotics, and anti-seizure drugs. As a first line of treatment, lithium is usually used because it effectively stabilizes the mood of the person. While antidepressants work well too, they take longer to work and may actually make hypomania worse at first. Once the patient is stabilized, then antidepressants may be used. Anti-seizure medications, usually Depakote, are also used for sudden episodes of hypomania and can also prevent these episodes. Electroconvulsive therapy may be used as a last resort if other treatment options have failed.

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    Resources

    WebMD: Bipolar II Disorder

    National Institute of Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder

    Revolution Health: All About Bipolar II Disorder