Inside The Lives Of People Living With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes people to experience extreme mood disturbances that affect their thoughts and behavior. Causing the mood to fluctuate from one extreme to another over a certain period of time, some episodes of bipolar disorder can last longer than others. There are four main types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I

People living with bipolar I experience at least one manic episode, which lasts for longer than a week (generally ranging from 3 to 6 months). It can be accompanied by periods of depression lasting for 6 to 12 months.

Kara Lynch:  I received my bipolar type I diagnosis at the young age of 22. I had experienced a three-month manic episode. The diagnosis shook me to my very core because it was something that I never thought I would have to deal with. I began medication and the uphill battle began.”

Bipolar II

People living with bipolar II tend to undergo more than one episode of severe depression along with mild hypomanic episodes. It is a period where one is persistently elevated, expansive or irritable.

Sam Hawken: “He told me in no uncertain terms that I had Bipolar II, not depression. He prescribed medicine. I didn’t believe him and stopped taking the stuff. A year later I was in a mental ward hearing the same thing and getting the same drugs.”


Rapid Cycling

People living with rapid cycling experience more than 4 or more mood episodes per year. It is a combination of hypomania and depression phases – also described as a fluctuating pattern of episodes.

Marya Hornbacher: “I have a type of bipolar that swings up and down all day long. There are significant mood swings within a say, within a week, within a month. I go through at least four major episodes a year. That’s really the definition of bipolar rapid cycle. But I have ultra-rapid, so I have tiny little episodes all day long.”



People living with cyclothymia experience mood swings that don’t fit into the criteria of mania, hypomania or depressive episodes. It is a relatively mild mood disorder where the low and high mood swings never reach the severity or duration of major depressive or full mania episodes.

Robertson Cooper: “I was diagnosed with ‘rapid cycling cyclothymia’, which meant my moods were up and down on a daily basis, defying the day to day influences which might have helped make sense of them. Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder or manic depressive illness which means that I experience mood swings that go from mild depression to emotional highs. I jokingly explain it nowadays as “bipolar disorder for those of us who are too busy for the full version.”

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