Bipolar 1 vs. Bipolar 2: What's the Difference?

One of the leading psychiatrists in Maryland explains the difference between bipolar disorder 1 and 2.

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health condition that affects millions of Americans. Documents dating back to Ancient Greece report observations of the extreme mood swings that characterize this disorder. That said, researchers and physicians are still learning more about bipolar disorder. Many people also still carry prejudices and misconceptions about this serious mental health condition. Most probably don’t know that there are actually four different types of bipolar disorder.

In this article, one of the leading psychiatrists in Maryland will explore two of the types: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. In general, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 vary in terms of their severity. Read on to learn more about these two types of bipolar disorder and how they may be treated now. 

Overview of Bipolar Disorder

Before we dive into the different types of bipolar disorder, we should review the disorder’s general history and characteristics.

therapist consulting patient
Bipolar disorder is typically characterized by dramatic shifts in a person’s mood and energy.


Bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, is a serious mental health disorder that causes extreme mood swings in individuals. A person with bipolar disorder will experience both extreme emotional highs, known as mania, and extreme lows. 

During a manic episode, someone with bipolar disorder may feel like they are on top of the world. They are euphoric, full of energy, and ready to tackle anything. But during a depressive episode, the patient may feel sad, empty, and hopeless. No longer are they interested in activities that once brought them joy. Patients may also experience melancholy or psychosis.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Most experts agree that multiple factors can contribute to one’s risk of developing bipolar disorder. Physical, environmental, and social factors can increase one’s chances of suffering from this mental health condition. 

For instance, researchers found that chemical imbalances in the brain can cause someone to become manic or depressive. Genetics and stressful life events like the death of a family member or suffering from abuse can also trigger bipolar disorder in individuals. 

Understanding the Cycles

Episodes can last anywhere from several days to several months. That said, most patients experience symptoms for several weeks at a time. After a manic episode, a depressive episode might arrive shortly after or not occur until a few weeks later. 

Different events can trigger cycles, including:

  • The dissolution of a relationship such as a divorce or a breakup
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • A new season
  • Pregnancy
  • Losing a job

While people can’t completely prevent their episodes, they can adequately prepare and manage them by learning their respective triggers. 

Bipolar 1 vs. Bipolar 2

Psychiatrists in Maryland can differentiate between the two types of bipolar disorder.

woman getting depression bipolar disorder problem
Bipolar 1 is more severe than bipolar 2.


Bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 are two of the four different types of bipolar disorder someone may develop. The other two are cyclothymic disorder and rapid cycling. Someone may also experience a mixed form of bipolar disorder where they experience both manic and depressive symptoms during an episode. However, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 are the most common forms of this disorder.

Bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 differ from each other in terms of their severity. Someone with bipolar 1 will experience more severe episodes than someone with bipolar 2. This is because bipolar 2 patients experience a less severe form of mania called hypomania. Patients experiencing a hypomanic episode won’t become as severely impaired as those going through a manic episode. 

Aside from that, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 share many similarities. They both typically cause one or more major depressive episodes in patients. These unpleasant episodes might cause someone to develop insomnia, fatigue, and even thoughts of suicide. During a manic or hypomanic episode, they may experience feelings of intense euphoria, increased energy, and a decreased need for sleep. 

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

There is hope out there for patients struggling with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder treatment
Patients with bipolar disorder typically use a combination of medication and therapy for treatment.


If you believe you might have bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, know that help is out there. Right now, there is no “cure” for the disorder. However, many patients experience an improvement in their lives after going on a combination of therapy and medication. 

A doctor might prescribe a mood-stabilizer or antidepressant. However, some traditional antidepressants do trigger manic episodes in some patients. If your physician does prescribe antidepressants, they will need to monitor you closely. You may also need to enroll in regular psychotherapy appointments to help you identify your triggers. Once you meet with a physician, you’ll have a clearer idea of what to expect from your treatment. 


In general, bipolar disorder 1 is more severe than bipolar disorder 2. But no matter which type you have, living with bipolar disorder can be challenging. But you don’t have to do it alone. Our leading psychiatrists in Maryland are ready to help you manage this challenging disorder. For more information about our services, contact the team at the Psych Associates of Maryland today!

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