Bipolar Disorder: How Many Types Are There?

Bipolar Spectrum Disorder (BSD), previously known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. These shifts are more severe than the normal ups and downs that are experienced by everyone.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), BSD affects nearly 4 percent of Americans in any given year and seems to have been increasing over the last few decades. Additionally, BSD is more common in women than men, with a ratio of approximately 3:2. There is no one cause of BSD, although research indicates it does run in families.

There are, in fact, at least four distinct types of BSD: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified. The distinction between the types is related to the severity of the symptoms – some people suffer with mild mood swings while others have trouble staying out of hospitals or jails.

Some of the core symptoms often associated with BSD includes periods of:

  • Abnormally elevated, depressed, or anxious mood
  • Decreased need for sleep, feeling energetic on dramatically less sleep than usual
  • Grandiose notions, ideas or plans
  • Increased talking or pressured speech
  • Too many thoughts racing though the mind
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Hypersexuality or hyperreligiosity
  • Poor judgment that leads to risk-taking behavior
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Delusional or psychotic thinking

Left untreated, BSD can get worse over time and the symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. In fact, people with BSD are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population and more people with BSD (39%) end up being hospitalized than any other mental illness. But BSD can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

However, misdiagnosis and improper treatment is very common. BSD is often mistaken for (exclusive) depression and/or ADD/ADHD because some of the symptoms are very similar. The distinction between BSD and other disorders is critical, however, because treating them with the wrong medication can make them much worse. This makes it very important to “look” at the brain with SPECT imaging. If we don’t look, how do we know exactly what we’re treating?

During the filming of my television special, On the Psychiatrist’s Couch, I took time to answer questions from the audience. Watch this short video to see how I answer a question regarding BSD.

Here are just a few of the valuable things you will learn:

  • A major condition that is often misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder
  • Why mood stabilizing medication might be missing the mark
  • The top 3 supplements I recommend for people with bipolar disorder

Although BSD is usually quite responsive to treatment, people with bipolar disorder typically have poor compliance with their treatment regimen. The problem is that when people with BSD improve, many feel so normal they do not believe they ever had a problem to begin with. It is difficult for people to accept that they have to keep taking supplements or medication when they think they no longer have a problem. Unfortunately, prematurely stopping treatment actually increases the chances of relapsing.

Through the use of brain imaging studies, I have been able to decrease the relapse rate of my patients by visually demonstrating the biological nature of their disorders and the need to treat them as such – a great asset in encouraging patients to cooperate in their own healing. In addition to that, SPECT imaging studies have helped me persuade patients to stop blaming themselves for their symptoms.

Imaging changes everything. At Amen Clinics, we can help you and your loved ones overcome the stigma and suffering associated with disorders like bipolar disorder. If you are ready to change your brain and change your life, give us a call today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.


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  1. Mary Beth Underwood says:

    The video spoke about Alzheimer’s not BSD. Do you have another video that’s related to BSD that should have been posted with this article instead?

  2. cheryl thompsom says:

    That is what I thought too. I didn’t read that is did say Alzheimer on top of the link. I was disappointed not to be hearing about bipolar.

  3. Pam Buckshon says:

    Unlike the other two commenters, the video I watched was correct. My problem is that, like all of Dr. Amen’s material, nothing is dealt with in any kind of depth. For example, we hear of supplements that contain good ingredients but we never hear what the ingredients are. With all of the fantastic material the clinic has amassed, you would think they would be excited to share this information, but that is not the case.

    • Mary Beth Underwood says:

      The correct video is now posted. Earlier the Alzheimer’s video was with this article instead. Yeah you pretty much need to get an appt with an Amen Clinic to get full details. Or at least call and speak with someone. That’s how I found HBOT for my TBIs and the treatments work.

  4. Michelle Abrahmz says:

    Bipolar is not a brain disorder – or at least you can’t claim it is. It’s a mood or emotion disorder and we still don’t know exactly what causes that. Is it chemical imbalance, a specific hormonal imbalance, diet related? Research shows diet had a profound effect, with most people with Bipolar being sensitive to dairy and wheat. In milder cases, healthy diet without dairy and wheat, exercise and plenty of good sleep can help keep emotional swings in control.

    You also forgot Bipolar, rapid cycle, which is what I was diagnosed with.

  5. frog97 says:

    What about C-PSTD
    being confused or misdiagnosed as bipolar?

  6. Barbara Daniels says:

    My husband is bipolar and supplements help we do several and he is on the least amount of medication he can be on> He went from a Bipolar 2 to a bipolar 1 we use Omega 3’s and GABA and a few others.It took me years to find the right combination of supplements to help him. It is the same gene that causes alcoholism and ADD and ADHD I have done a lot of research over the years also with him he had the lowest cholesterol the dieticians had ever seen since the brain is made of cholesterol I believe this is a factor! Just my take and I want to thank DR Amen for doing this website and his imput!

  7. Terry Swift says:

    I was originally diagnosed as a Bipolar 1 – the milder kind back in 2000. Went thru all the crazy drugs that made me far more crazy, unable to sleep properly – thus losing my job due to I couldn’t stay awake at work – even with a very understanding and accommodating boss who would have let me ride for much longer. I could barely function in an IT position, so I told him it was best for me and the company for me to go on disability – which my company did offer for like 2 years worth of time to see if you get better and can come back to work. I was living away from my home, so moved back and found a very good psychiatrist who did his best to get me back to a somewhat functioning state and not sleeping 18 hours a day or being like a zombie when I was awake. Unfortunately he decided to leave private practice go work for the state – so back to finding another doctor – which I did. After several years I was getting back to a medium level functioning state on some meds that did not wack me out.

    That is about the time I heard of Dr, Amen and started reading / watching his programs on PBS and such. Was very curious when he mentioned SPECT, as I had suffered from a horrible car accident as a child and a few subsequent concussions / black-outs while snow skiing / boarding and thought that was the real cause of my depression and such. Finally in 2013 I was able to afford a SPECT Scan and had it done. Results came back – classic TBI – brain was kind of like shredded cheese.

    Went thru some brain training and such for a couple of years and finally got off the meds – which was not easy. Still have cyclical depression and my wife wants me back on some kind of medication, but I don’t want to go back to that ever again and the effects (bad ones) they create. I’m not 100% sure even if taking meds would do much to help, since it’s not really a biology kind of depression, but brain trauma related.

    Started taking the power vitamins / supplements Dr. Amen recommends and have seen little effect so far. Have also tried the hyperbaric treatment (1) with no real “feels better” effect from that either and more time costs a pretty penny and NOT covered by insurance – just like SPECT – which is BAD for those who need to have it done, but don’t have the $3k or more to do it.

    Going to University Texas – Southwestern in Dallas in a couple of weeks to their Neurological / Brain Center to see what they offer. The VA does offer TBI Treatment for those who served during Iraq / Afghanistan, but I was told here in Dallas sue to limited facilities – I would not be able to get care due to my service prior to these 2. Now that’s WRONG!

  8. elizabeth hayton says:

    Hi my sister was first diagnosed as psysofrenich and then they changed it to bipolar manic depression because of the symptoms and meds taken she is a lot better however she is in Mexico and unable to get to a clinic my question for you is that if you could recommend or suggest any other supplements that can help her with mood swings


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