Four Types of Bipolar Disorders in Teens

Bipolar Disorder is a psychological illness in which a person experiences mood swings that cause them to feel manic (a high state) and then depressed (a low state). This illness was once known as manic-depressive for this reason.

The following describes the experience teens may go through as they shift their moods from mania to depression:


The mania of teen Bipolar Disorder typically includes extremely high levels of energy, extreme excitement, happiness, and grandiosity. Although mania can bring elevated levels of energy, there are symptoms of mania that are unpleasant. These include irritability, inability to focus, restlessness, not sleeping, feeling little fatigue, impulsivity, and risky behavior.


The depression of teen Bipolar Disorder typically includes overwhelming sadness and hopelessness. Symptoms of this mood episode include apathy, loss of desire, inability to concentrate, a sense of sluggishness, irritability, loss of appetite, and suicidal thoughts. It’s not uncommon for someone to attempt suicide during this experience.

Although all forms of Bipolar Disorder include a swing of moods, there are levels of severity in those mood swings. And this can determine the type of Bipolar Disorder a teen is experiencing. The following describes four types of this illness:

  • Bipolar I Disorder – This type of Bipolar Disorder includes severe manic or mixed episodes, usually lasting somewhere between 7-14 days.  Because of the severity of this Bipolar Disorder type, people diagnosed with Bipolar I tend to experience hospitalization, criminal activity, and suicide attempts.
  • Bipolar II Disorder – This type of Bipolar Disorder includes mood swings that are not as severe as Bipolar I. A person may move from a relative high to a depressive low, but not experiencing a fully manic episode.  Those with this type may have strong shifts in mood but usually do not experience the more prolonged and extreme behaviors of a manic episode.
  • Mixed Episode Bipolar Disorder – This type of Bipolar Disorder is characterized by the experience of manic and depressive states at the same time, and/or alternating very quickly between them.
  • Cyclothymia – This type of Bipolar Disorder causes emotional ups and downs, but they’re not as extreme as in bipolar disorder type I or II. There may be slower shifts within states and episodes, carried out over a person’s lifetime.With cyclothymia, a teen may experience periods when their mood noticeably shifts up and down. Teens may feel on top of the world for a time, followed by a low period. Between these cyclothymic highs and lows, you may feel stable and fine.

Teens who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder may experience the following difficulties:

  • Substance use and possible addiction
  • Other risky behavior that leads to injury or harm
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • An anxiety disorder such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, or PTSD
  • Sexual activity and possibly pregnancy

If you are a parent or caregiver and you recognize the above signs and symptoms in your teen, contact a mental health provider today.

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