Though the condition is lesser known and can be challenging, unspecified bipolar disorder can be treated and is manageable.

Unspecified bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes shifts in mood. If you’ve been diagnosed with unspecified bipolar disorder, it may be confusing to know why it’s labeled ambiguously.

The mood disorder is still serious and can cause problems at work, school, or relationships. Still, the condition is treatable, and those living with it enjoy fulfilling lives.

Unspecified bipolar disorder, aka bipolar disorder NOS,is a mood disorder in which a person doesn’t meet the criteria for bipolar disorder. You may experience symptoms aligned with or similar to bipolar disorder, but the fullcriteria for bipolar I, II, or cyclothymia aren’t met.

The symptoms of unspecified bipolar disorder are neither explained by substance use nor another medical condition.

Is unspecified bipolar disorder a diagnosis?

It is a diagnosis, but it may leave room for interpretation.

The duration during which you experience symptoms may differ from someone diagnosed with bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymia. The symptoms of bipolar disorder NOS may be less extreme, or there aren’t enough symptoms for a complete diagnosis.

What causes unspecified bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorders or symptoms similar to bipolar disorders have no singular cause. Nevertheless, some known causes of bipolar disorder include genetics and brain structure.

Types of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disordersDescription
Bipolar I A manic episode that is present for at least 1 week. Can occur with or without depressive episodes.
Bipolar IIBoth hypomanic and depressive symptoms. Hypomanic symptoms must be present for at least 4 days, and depressive symptoms must be present for 2 weeks.
CyclothymiaVarying shifts between hypomania and depressive episodes within a 2-year span in adults and a 1-year span in youth.
Substance-inducedManic or hypomanic episodes with or without depressed mood that occur during or after substance use, withdrawal, or taking a medication
Bipolar disorder from medical conditionCriteria include manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes that occur due to a medical condition.
Other specifiedSymptoms characteristic of a bipolar disorder but don’t meet the criteria for other bipolar disorders. There are four classifications.
Unspecified (NOS)Symptoms that are characteristic of a bipolar disorder but don’t meet the criteria for other bipolar disorders because there’s not enough information to make a diagnosis.

A note on bipolar disorder due to a medical condition

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), medical conditions that can cause bipolar disorder include:

  • multiple sclerosis
  • Cushing’s disease
  • a result of stroke or traumatic brain injury

A note on bipolar disorder ‘other specified’

The DSM-5 also describes the four classifications as:

  • short-duration hypomanic episodes and major depressive episodes
  • hypomanic episodes (without sufficient symptoms) and major depressive episodes
  • hypomanic episode without a prior major depressive episode
  • short-duration cyclothymia (less than 2 years)

No, unspecified bipolar disorder is not the same as “mixed features.”

Bipolar disorder with mixed features is present when someone is experiencing mania and depression simultaneously.

Bipolar disorder NOS means that you meet some but not all criteria to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Diagnosis of unspecified bipolar disorder often occurs when symptoms are consistent with the depressive and hypomanic or manic phases typically seen in bipolar disorder.

Still, there isn’t enough information to make a full diagnosis.

According to the DSM-5, a clinician may choose not to specify why the full criteria aren’t met.

Sometimes this may be due to not having enough information, such as in short-term treatment settings like the emergency room.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from one individual to another.

Most people experience periods of depressive episodes followed by mania.

A period of mania with fewer severe symptoms is called hypomania. Hypomania may be more common with bipolar disorder NOS.


If you have unspecified bipolar disorder, you may experience any number of the following symptoms at different times.

Mania and hypomania share the same set of symptoms. The difference is that mania is often severe, and hypomania is often milder.

Manic episodes with bipolar disorder typically last at least 1 week, whereas hypomanic episodes last around 4 days.

Depressive symptoms:

  • low mood
  • loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • insomnia or hypersomnia
  • increase or decrease in appetite
  • feelings of guilt
  • fatigue
  • trouble concentrating
  • increase or decrease in psychomotor activity
  • self-harm or suicidal ideation or attempts

Manic or hypomanic symptoms:

  • elevated mood
  • increased in goal-directed activity
  • grandiosity
  • decreased need for sleep
  • distractibility
  • racing thoughts
  • increased or pressured speech
  • engaging in activities that may lead to harmful or unwanted consequences

Meds and therapies

Managing bipolar disorder can be effective with a combination of medication and therapy.

Some common medications used in the treatment of bipolar disorder include:

If you’re thinking about starting medication to help manage bipolar disorder, you may consider talking with your doctor about what medications are right.

For example, lithium is a commonly prescribed medication that can help treat bipolar disorder, but it requires extensive monitoring.

Psychotherapy may also help manage bipolar symptoms. Several therapies have all shown effectiveness in treating bipolar depression, including:

Managing the mood shifts in bipolar disorder NOS can be exhausting. Still, studies show some evidence-based strategies that may help are:

  • adapting to a treatment routine
  • reaching out to social supports
  • getting adequate sleep
  • recognizing and tracking moods
  • exercising

Bipolar disorder may look different depending on the type of bipolar disorder.

It can be tough and overwhelming to manage unspecified bipolar disorder. But you’re not alone. There are treatments, medication, and resources that can help you better cope with the symptoms.