Bipolar disorder is a type of depression which can take many forms, some of which are still not fully understood by the medical profession and remain controversial. The two main and best understood forms, however, are Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2. Both diseases are characterized by alternating episodes of depression and elevated mood (Sadock and Sadock, 2013, pp. 219-220). This means that periods of severe depression alternate with periods of elevated mood characterized by symptoms such as cheerfulness, increased self-confidence, lack of sleep, and feelings of grandness and superiority (Purse, 2015, n.p.). In both diseases, the periods of depression can lead to anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and the effects on everyday life of these alternating moods can include relationship problems, hospitalization, and suicide (Quinn, 2007, p. 24).
The main difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar two is in the severity of the episodes of elevated mood. Bipolar 1 features more severe episodes of elevated mood than Bipolar 2 (Quinn, 2007, p. 24), although in both diseases the depressive episodes are severe (Sadock and Sadock, 2013, p. 220). The slightly less severe manic episodes of Bipolar 2 are known as Hypomanic episodes; these are episodes of elevated mood which are abnormal for the person in question, but would not necessarily be abnormal for every person. Bipolar 1, in contrast, is characterized by Manic episodes, in which the mood is elevated to an extent that would be abnormal in anyone, and may also include features of psychosis such as delusions and hallucinations (Purse, 2015, n.p.). In terms of distinguishing between these two disorders, therefore, the presence of manic episodes is extremely important: Bipolar 2 can be identified by studying these episodes and the severity of their impact on the everyday life of the person in order to determine which disorder is present.

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  • Purse, M. (2015, March 11). “Bipolar I and Bipolar II – What’s the Difference?” Retrieved from
  • Quinn, B. (2007). The Wiley Concise Guides to Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Sadock, B. J. and Sadock, V. A. (2008). Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. New York: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.