Is Bipolar I Worse Than Bipolar II Disorder?
As the HealthyPlace YouTube bipolar vlogger, I'm frequently asked about whether bipolar I disorder is worse than bipolar II. It's a reasonable question. It usually comes from either people who are newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder or family members or friends of those who live with bipolar. As for which is worse, bipolar I or bipolar II, let me share some insights.
Around 6 million people live with bipolar disorder, which is 2.5% of the U.S. population, and 1% of people in the U.S. live with bipolar I.1 In my personal experience living with bipolar II disorder, I relate to people living with bipolar I, but we differ in the extremes of our condition.
The Similarities between Bipolar I and Bipolar II
I have found that there are many similarities between those of us living with bipolar I and bipolar II. One commonality is the age where the symptoms of bipolar disorder began to surface. Many of my friends living with bipolar I or bipolar II started noticing signs in their late teens which worsened into their early twenties. Statistically, the average age in which bipolar symptoms surface is 21.
The experience of going to a mental hospital is also something those of us living with bipolar disorder have in common. The treatment of both types of bipolar disorder are also similar, if not the same. Most of the bipolar medications I have been given have also been prescribed to the people I have met with bipolar 1.
Our way of thinking, emotional extremes, lack of sleep, and dealing with the highs and lows are what we have most in common. The way the stigma of mental illness has negatively affected our lives is very similar. Self-stigmatizing is present in all of our experiences and played a pivotal role in our delay in seeking treatment. In general, those of us living with both bipolar I or bipolar II are similar in many ways; however the symptoms of mania in bipolar 1 is where we differ with extremes.
So now, onto answering the question: Is bipolar I worse than bipolar II?
Is Bipolar I Worse Than Bipolar II?
I am not a licensed psychologist, but based off my experience living with bipolar II and speaking with many people living with bipolar I, I believe that bipolar I is worse than bipolar II. The most significant difference between bipolar I and bipolar II disorder is the severity of manic episodes. The people living with bipolar I who have shared their experience with me talk about delusional ways of thinking that go beyond anything I have experienced as someone living with bipolar II disorder. Hypomania, which is less severe than mania and is a symptom of bipolar II disorder, has caused me to make impulsive and irresponsible decisions — however, hallucinations and delusions (bipolar psychosis) to the extent that some people with bipolar I experience have not been present in my life.
It is important to remember that the labeling of bipolar disorder does not lessen the pain regardless of the type. Those of us living with both bipolar I and bipolar II disorder have many things in common and share similar experiences. We are people diagnosed with a mental illness who are trying to live a good life and overcome the stigma that prevents us from getting the proper treatment we need. It is one big community.
1Tracy, N. (2012, January 12). What is Bipolar 1 Disorder? Bipolar I Symptoms. Retrieved December 17, 2018, from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-types/what-is-bipolar-1-disorder-bipolar-i-bipolar-i-symptoms
Blum, H. (2018, December 17). Is Bipolar I Worse Than Bipolar II Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/living-with-bipolar-blog/2018/12/is-bipolar-i-worse-than-bipolar-ii-disorder
Author: Hannah Blum
I agree type 1 is “worse.”
I was diagnosed type 2 for years. Then my meds stopped working and I had a manic/psychotic episode. This alone is 10x worse than the ups and downs of depression and hypo mania. Extreme agitation, insomnia, hallucinations, delirium and delusions. Physical symptoms of stress and overactive nervous system. Losing my mind, losing control of my thoughts, losing my abilities to reason. I liken it to a bad shroom/hallucinogen trip that has NO END IN SIGHT. Pure hell. It triggered 24 hour per day panic attacks and agoraphobia in its wake. Takes months to recover just back to baseline bipolar, if ever. Truly I have never actually recovered from the first time, and it has happened twice. :(
But, this isn’t to minimize Bipolar 2, mixed/rapid cycling, or anything. Or severe depression and anxiety. All bad.
Thank you Hannah. I wish you would continue sharing your thoughts and make more YouTube videos. Nothing helps more than seeing and connecting with others going through the same difficulties that majority of people can not even fathom the depths of. You are an inspiration, and a beautiful person
There is another difference between people with Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. People with Bipolar 1 go through periods where they are asymptomatic. People with Bipolar 2 spend less time being asymptomatic. For instance, they may always have a low grade depression that never entirely lifts. Can't remember where I read this, but I did read it.