By Kayt Sukel
In the bestselling memoir, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, author Kay Redfield Jamison describes her experience with bipolar disorder in this way:
“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against– you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.”
Bipolar disorder is often referred to as “manic depression,” a mental condition with extreme highs and debilitating lows. This mental illness, affecting nearly 3 percent of adult Americans, is a disorder that is characterized by unusual shifts in mood state— shifts so unusual that they can interfere with day-to-day living. But “manic depression” is not one single disorder. In fact, to date, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), recognizes many distinct types of bipolar illness. And which type one has can influence the type of treatment required. Here are the five different types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I. This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by at least one manic episode —that period of abnormal, disruptive elevated mood that leads to manic feelings and behaviors. But these highs are quickly tempered by extreme lows or periods of depression.
- Bipolar II. This type of bipolar disorder is quite similar to Bipolar I. However, most individuals with bipolar II do not experience mania during their high moods.
- Rapid Cycling.Individuals with rapid cycling bipolar disorder experience recurrent episodes of mania and/or depression—to the tune of four or more episodes each year.
- Mixed Bipolar. Individuals living with mixed bipolar disorder experience a mix of mania and depression simultaneously or in immediate sequence. This is different from other types of bipolar disorder, where individuals experience either mania or depression.
- Cyclothymia. Sometimes called “bipolar lite,” this milder form of bipolar disorder has similar symptoms to full-blown bipolar disorder but with lesser intensity.
If you or a loved one is experiencing bipolar symptoms, the highs or the lows, seek help without delay. Whatever the form, bipolar disorder is a serious, and usually reoccurring mental health condition. But it is also a condition that can be stabilized with the right medication. And tests like the GeneSight Psychotropic test can help your primary care physician or qualified mental health provider find the medication that can bring your form of bipolar disorder under control—and prevent future relapses.