Psych Central


Do You Understand the Bipolar Spectrum?In modern psychiatry, there is more than one type of bipolar disorder, and patients may be told that they are ‘somewhere on the bipolar spectrum.’

This can be confusing to hear; as a newly diagnosed patient, you may wonder, ‘so do I really have bipolar disorder or not?’

According to the current, dominant model, the bipolar spectrum runs from bipolar I at one end, to cyclothymia and ‘not otherwise specified’ at the other.

You may have heard that bipolar disorder (BD) affects only one in a hundred people, but this is untrue — or only a partial truth — according to the spectrum model.

12 Comments to
Do You Understand the Bipolar Spectrum?

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. Click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.

  1. I like how you state that not everyone needs meds. There’s a lot of med pushing and “meds are the only way” on this site. And that’s just not true.

    But, I wish you had gone into mixed bipolar. I happen to have many, many mixed episodes regularly and it’s exhausting.

  2. Thanks some girl. Yes – I strongly feel that people need to be more educated about the alternatives to medication. I know that meds can help enormously, and for some people they are lifesavers. But as you say, it’s simply not true that EVERYONE with bipolar disorder must be medicated for life.

    OK, I’ll put mixed episodes on my list of things to write about! I didn’t want to overcomplicate this article by getting into mixed states or rapid cycling, but they are both important subjects!

    Thanks for your feedback. :)

  3. Thanks for the article. I wished you had mentioned
    rage because that is a very big problem for me,
    and I don’t know what to do about it. It starts
    off as irritability, then anger, then outright rage where I am totally out of control. I am making typos and getting into a rage right now, first thing in the morning! I make an effort with all the hot showers, relaxing music etc. Good luck to you all.

  4. I was disapointed that mixed was not mentioned because you can’t have Bipolar II diagnosis if you have mixed or manic episodes. It is a major distinction. Actually the whole bopolar criterion and diagnosis is confusing and complicated, and the spectrum is so vast. Thanks for writing this article.

    • what are you talking about . Without the switch there is no bipolar disorder.

  5. When diagnosed with Bipolar went into denial to three months..,this is probably a typical reaction especially if in a high cycle….thought and others to that just an excitable…lad..
    if BP is so prevalent then believe adolescents should be screened for it….
    The reason is they should be informed is one of the big pluses of the condition is that they are very likely highly creative…so should follow something like gaphic design architecture writing anything that requires original thought science music as they will have a greater chance of having a happier life…
    Also the importance of medication to stop spending sprees when on a high or suicidal thoughts when on a low….
    The consequences of these actions obviously leed to dramtic consequences!
    If for warned maybe they can avoid or greatly reduce these instances and maximise their talents!
    With out the warning their life’s will be chaotic impacting not only on themselves but others around them….especially family causing much distress. BeePee

    • Thanks for your comments BeeePeee. Yes, I agree that doctors/psychiatrists could be more open to recognising bipolar disorder in young people. And I think you’re right that your denial at first was typical for a lot of folk! Glad that you’ve learned to understand and manage your illness over time.

  6. When you don’t understand what is going on it creates confusion and regret and distress.
    Because I didn’t understand my self became anxious took risks suffered consequences lost my job my home realised too late had chosen an unsuitable vocation where there was little opertunity too use my creativity…
    Now on a pension looking after an invalid mother.
    Was not diagnosed till age 52 even though had visited a pyschologist and a psychiatrist they failed to ask the most basic relevant questions like …
    Do You have large mood swings? are you a creative type ?do you find yourself talking rapidly???
    These are so called professional people …failed to diagnose me correctly there is plenty of stuff on the net which explained things well even the critical differences between bipolar and narcissistic types the biggest is narscissistic types lack empathy for others.
    In the end told my Doctor was having mayor mood swings and thought I was bipolar he then correctly diagnosed me…put me on medication unfortunately for me had gone through magor distress both financially and emotionally.
    While I’m much better now I live a very simple life due to financial and carting for my mum.
    Having a pet dog is great she is not judgemental as long as kind and treat her probably my best friend.(also have another friend who suffers from Teretts and yes he swears):

  7. I now understand that some people who are depressed or have mood swings constantly may fall into one of these categories. It is very interesting that a persons sleep pattern can affect them in a lot of ways. The medicine that is prescribed to a person who has been diagnosed with Bipolar becomes dependent on the medicine because it is to regulate their mood.

  8. My former husband of 20 yrs. was diagnosed biopolar. My son was recently diagnosed also.But I disagree with his dr’s diagnosis because my now 30 yr. old son has never had a single manic episode. He struggles greatly with MY symptoms of chronic dysthymia. I’ve discussed this in detail with my son as we have a very open, honest relationship. He states that even this is true, antidepressants alone always eventually ceased their effectiveness and when combined with lithium he stays aways from depression. My concern? The long term effects of lithium use AND the stigma of the bipolar labelm especially when it comes to his trying to find a wife.

  9. saying that people with bipolar dont need meds or mood stabilizers i think makes you suspect a pharmaceutical rep. At what point is someone just not bipolar or misdiagnosed if they dont need treatment . i mean cmon if you dont need treatment what is the problem. its obviously not worth even mentioning. Ridiculous!

    • Sorry? David, this article doesn’t state that people with bipolar illness “don’t need treatment.” It states that there are numerous treatments available, including but not limited to medication (and certainly not limited to mood stablisers)! For example, a person may be unresponsive to medication, and have years of intensive psychological therapy instead.

      Please be careful with your wording; the idea that if a bipolar individual is not being treated with mood stablisers, their problems are “not worth even mentioning” I find deeply offensive. But perhaps you simply misunderstood my original points, so I would reiterate: “treatment” and “medication” are not necessarily the same thing. This article did not state that people with bipolar ever “don’t need treatment.”

Join the Conversation!

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines.

Post a Comment:


(Required, will be published)

(Required, but will not be published)

(Optional)

Recent Comments
  • experienced: To whom it may concern and to overly educated “so called” physcians, I would be very...
  • justathought: It’s Snake oil, if you are charged money! There’s tons of FREE brain games online…...
  • Nemya: This article was right on target. I wish I wouldn’t have been in denial most of the eleven years of my...
  • Anonymous: This article is the most promising advice I’ll ever get. I’m severely depressed and have an...
  • Kass. P: I totally agree with what you have said here in this article. I’m not recovering from any addictions...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 8309
Join Us Now!