Bipolar 1/Bipolar 2.. What’s The Difference?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that bipolar was subdivided into different categories until fairly recently. I knew I was bipolar. I knew that, for me, I felt that it was necessary that I be medicated. But beyond that, I didn’t ask a lot of questions.

The digger I deep into researching my own illness, the more I am find it necessary that I know more about my diagnosis and the differences between bipolar 1, bipolar 2, and the lesser known cyclothymia, which is defined as a relatively mild mood disorder that is related to bipolar. 

Just so it is known, I was formerly diagnosed as bipolar 1 about 9yrs ago, which was an easy diagnosis for my doctor, as I was just emerging from my first mixed episode, due to temporary lack of meds following a very traumatic break up.

To be diagnosed as bipolar 1, you have to had experienced at least one manic episode. Symptoms include elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty maintaining attention, increase in goal-directed activity, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities (sex, drugs, alcohol). These manic symptoms must significantly impact a person’s daily living to be considered a bipolar 1 manic episode.

When you are bipolar 2, you may consider a lesser form of mania, known as hypomania. The symptoms of hypomania are similar to mania, except they are not experienced as severe as a true manic episode and they do not significantly impact a person’s daily life. A person with bipolar 2 also doesn’t experience any psychotic features, which can occur in bipolar 1.

About two years ago, after conversing with a relative of mine who also lives with bipolar disorder, I came to understand that I did not know for sure what type of bipolar I was affected by and so I finally asked my doctors to define my illness for me, for the time. I was told that I had, without question, bipolar 1, due to the instances of manic episodes in my life that had occurred at the time of my initial diagnosis and the manic episodes that had occurred since that time.

I have lived confidently with my bipolar 1 diagnosis since then.. up until a recent doctors appointment.

It was a bipolar assessment which, on its face, I found offensive enough. How long do I have to live with the consequences of a diagnosis before I can just be accepted as the person I am. A person with a disorder that I have had to live with for nearly a decade.

During the appointment, the doctor I was visiting with reviewed my last assessment. Apparently, the doctor who I had my initial rTMS review with had written in my record that I had bipolar 2.

This extremely bothered me.

I am not striving to be the worst it the pack, but I had told her about many very personal tidbits of my life to this doctor. Events that I am extremely ashamed of that have occurred during manic episodes. Why did she write that I was bipolar 2? Did she think that under my own power, I was capable of the events that I disclosed about myself?

I find myself feeling very tempted to wean myself off of my medications and prove, once and for all, exactly where I sit within the spectrum. I know that this sounds like a ridiculous notion, but I just can’t stand that that bipolar 2 mark is on my record after everything that I have been made to suffer through in my life to earn my bipolar 1 status.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to live with a bipolar 2 diagnosis.

I hope that no one is reading me wrong here. I don’t want to be bipolar 1 as some kind of badge of honour, but when you know that it’s something that you’ve earned, I suppose there is some sick part of you that wants it there.

If I had a bipolar 2 diagnosis, I would strive to live without medications. I suppose that explains the part of me that makes me want to experiment with going off meds. If I ever tried it and all things didn’t go to shit, then maybe I would be able to remain med-free?? It’s an extremely tempting prospect.. even with the potential consequences in mind.

I would love to hear your thoughts, my friends. What would you do, if you were in my position? It is my goal to be on the least amount of medications as I can manage. If that were within the realm of possibility in your illness, would you go for it?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to respond in the comments or email me directly.


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