Bipolar Type 2 Disorder is a type of
mood disorder in which the affected person tends to fluctuate between hypomania and depression. These mood swings are outside the realm of normal mood changes. Some patients with this disorder can lead relatively normal lives between mood cycles. The behaviors during a hypomanic phase can be very alarming. For example, a person during hypomania may make impulsive decisions with serious consequences, such as to buy a house, quit their job, buy a one-way ticket to another country, or they may not sleep for several days. The period of hypomania is often followed by depression, where the person may have negative thoughts and a general feeling of hopelessness. Patients with Bipolar Type 2 generally have fewer hypomanic cycles (and may only have 1), with more periods of depression. In contrast, Bipolar Type 1 is characterized by “mania” which is more disrupting and out of control than the hypomania of Biplar Type 2.
Even though the exact cause of this disorder is currently unknown, there does appear to be a genetic link. The cycles of mania or depression are often minimal at first but over time will continue to increase as the condition progresses. Both manic and depressive cycles can be triggered by a stressful event such as a relationship breakup, death of a loved one and other types of loss or trauma. Symptoms are due to changes in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain- noradrenalin, serotonin and dopamine. Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but is treatable. It is one of the mental health disorders that definitely needs lifelong medication to manage and control symptoms. Mood stabilizers which balance out the emotional response system are usually effective. Sometimes if manic symptoms are minimal, the patient is misdiagnosed with unipolar depression and treated with anti depressants only – this can bring on a full blown manic phase. Therefore an accurate diagnosis with a psychiatrist is essential. In addition to medication, psychotherapeutic interventions help. Cognitive behavior therapy helps patients to replace patterns of negative thinking with realistic and adaptive thoughts and behaviors. Journaling helps track mood cycles. Avoiding triggers such as alcohol, drugs or lack of sleep is important. Practicing healthy habits such as daily exercise, sun exposure, balanced nutrition and general stress reduction all help.
Combining medications with therapy is the best practice treatment. Support groups for patients enable them to share experiences, reduce stigma and develop good coping skills. Support groups for family members can help them with psycho-education, as well as provide them with the emotional support that they need as well.