Bipolar II disorder is a mental illness that involves periods of depression and periods of high mood, known as hypomania. It is a chronic or episodic condition, meaning it can occur occasionally and at irregular intervals. It can cause unusual, often extreme and fluctuating, changes in mood, energy, activity, and concentration or focus. Bipolar disorder is sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, which are older terms. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a person must have experienced at least one episode of mania or hypomania.
Hypomania is a milder form of mania that does not include psychotic episodes. People with hypomania can often function well in social situations or at work. Some people with bipolar disorder will have episodes of mania or hypomania many times throughout their lives; others may experience them only rarely. Severe bipolar episodes of mania or depression can include psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. Usually, these psychotic symptoms reflect a person's extreme mood.
People with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms may be misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia. Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose the “type of bipolar disorder” a person may be experiencing. To determine what type of bipolar disorder a person has, mental health professionals evaluate the pattern of symptoms and the person's degree of disability during the most serious episodes. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medication and psychological counseling (psychotherapy). While people with a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the disorder on their own, most people with a family history of bipolar disorder won't develop the condition. Learning more about the role of genes in bipolar disorder may help researchers develop new treatments. For example, antidepressants used to treat OCD and stimulants used to treat ADHD can worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder and even trigger a manic episode.
During periods of mania, people often behave impulsively, make reckless decisions, and take unusual risks. People with certain types of bipolar disorder, such as bipolar II disorder, experience hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania. However, receiving treatment at the first sign of a mental health disorder can help prevent the worsening of bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions. The risk of suicide is significantly higher among people with bipolar I disorder than among the general population. Bipolar disorder can disrupt a person's relationships with loved ones and cause difficulty working or going to school. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder have no mood changes, but some people may have persistent symptoms. People with bipolar disorder often need mood-stabilizing medications to control manic or hypomanic episodes. Sometimes, a person may experience symptoms of bipolar disorder that don't match the three categories listed above, which are known as “other specific and unspecified bipolar and related disorders.”.