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Bipolar II Disorder: Are the Symptoms Worse Than Regular Bipolar Disorder?

bipolar ii disorder, bipolar disorder

Catherine Zeta-Jones was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. What's the difference between that and regular bipolar symptoms?

A publicist for Catherine Zeta-Jones confirmed that the actress and mother of two had recently started treatment at an inpatient mental health facility in Connecticut.

The Chicago star was being treated for a condition once known as manic-depression but now known clinically as bipolar disorder. More specifically, Zeta-Jones had been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.

What is that exactly and what are the symptoms?

The Los Angeles Times Booster Shots blog talked to UCLA professor of psychiatry and author of “The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know,” David J. Miklowitz, PhD.

Miklowitz said bipolar disorders in general are lifelong and recurrent episodes of depression. For some people, they experience their first episode as a child, others as adults, most as teens. The frequency of the depressions also varies — for some it’s ever few years, for others it’s nearly daily.

All bipolar disorders are marked by swings from depression to manic states. Those diagnosed with bipolar I experience severe manias. Miklowitz describes them as “feel[ing] on top of the world” or irritable and angry.  They sometimes feel like they have superpowers or heightened perception; their thoughts race and they’re loaded with energy.  Usually people with bipolar I swing between this manic state and a “flip side” of extreme depression during which they slow down, feel sad and lose interest in activities they usually enjoy (including sex). They can suffer from fatigue and insomnia, and can become suicidal.

That’s what the public generally thinks of when they hear “manic depression,” or “bipolar disorder.”

Zeta-Jones is reported to suffer from a less intense form of bipolar disorder, bipolar II. They swing from severe depression to hypomania — a briefer, milder manic state. Miklowitz says people notice the mood swings in bipolar II sufferers, but it’s not as severe.

Treatments for bipolar II typically include medications and psychotherapy. In-patient treatment is recommended when out-patient interventions aren’t helping or when the person simply needs time away from the stressors until the medications have time to work.

Miklowitz said that it’s now known that stress can trigger episodes of depression for bipolar sufferers. He said medicine and psychotherapy has helped sufferers and their families identify triggers and recognize episodes and also how to help the depression or mood swings become less severe. Often, more sleep are adjusted medicines is all it takes.

Photo: wikipedia.org

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