A Guide To Living With Bipolar 2 Disorder

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 12/09/2020

Bipolar Disorder 2 is one of four types of Bipolar Disorder recognized by mental health professionals and medical professionals alike. The types of Bipolar Disorder include Bipolar Disorder 1, Bipolar Disorder 2, Cyclothymic Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. Bipolar Disorder 2 is nestled firmly between Cyclothymic Disorder and Bipolar 1 in terms of severity and intensity. Although all Bipolar Disorders include the symptoms of depressive episodes and manic episodes, the severity and length differ from disorder to disorder, and the degree to which lives are affected can vary.

Bipolar Disorder 2 is a Bipolar Disorder characterized by depressive and manic episodes, but these episodes may not follow the pattern typically associated with Bipolar Disorder. Instead, Bipolar 2 is characterized by periods of depressive episodes, wherein the individual struggles to complete tasks, feels immense amounts of fatigue, and feels despair or hopelessness, followed by periods of manic (often called “hypomanic”) episodes, wherein someone may feel as though they are suddenly able to be productive, get out more, and engage in relationships more.

Bipolar 2 is also known for periods of ease between episodes. In these “in-between” periods, people with Bipolar Disorder 2 will not experience intense feelings of depression, mania, or hypomania. Still, they will return to a baseline or normal state of mind and behavior. Baseline stretches can last only a few days but typically last weeks before another manic or depressive episode occurs. Recognizing all of the changes can be difficult for someone who has been living with Bipolar Disorder 2 for a long time, as these highs, lows, and middle grounds can all feel normal rather than extremely disruptive experiences.

Living With Bipolar: Finding A Therapist

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Determining that you have Bipolar Disorder 2 can come about in a few ways. Taking an online test can reveal the likelihood of Bipolar Disorder and prompt a visit to a therapist. A serious conversation with a partner, friend, or loved one can reveal the presence of an issue that turns out to be the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. No matter the exact source of Bipolar Disorder suspicions, one of the first and most important steps is to find a therapist who can evaluate symptoms and provide a solid diagnosis. While tests and awareness of symptoms can be important steps toward healing, therapy is essential to successfully navigating life with Bipolar Disorder.

Finding a therapist can be as simple as contacting your insurance company and locating a therapist who will accept your insurance, or could involve researching local therapists to find a professional with extensive experience working with Bipolar Disorder. Finding a therapist you can trust is essential to successfully undergo treatment, as there are many aspects of therapy that require people to open up and share sensitive information. If you cannot trust your therapist or do not feel as though you and your therapist are a good fit, you are highly unlikely to divulge the information necessary to invest wholeheartedly in your treatment.

Beginning Treatment

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Beginning treatment for Bipolar Disorder 2 starts with an official diagnosis and a thorough history. Bipolar Disorder 2 is treated with medication and psychotherapy, both of which may begin immediately. There are many different medications designed to treat Bipolar Disorder, and the combination of medications used will depend on the precise symptoms of an individual’s diagnosis. Some people, or instance, do best with a combination of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, both of which may help ease the onset of manic and depressive episodes. Others do best with just a mood stabilizer. The exact combination of medication can be tweaked as the situation requires. People with Bipolar Disorder are carefully monitored by their doctors to make sure that treatment protocols are working. The side effects associated with medications are kept in check.

Psychotherapy is another important part of Bipolar Disorder treatment, as talk therapy has the ability to heal some of the shame, fear, and embarrassment associated with having any kind of mental illness. Talk therapy can also be used to help create healthy coping mechanisms when episodes arise. Although medication has long been considered an important part of treating Bipolar Disorder, evidence increasingly demonstrates the vital nature of psychotherapy in treating Bipolar Disorder and limiting the risk of symptom relapse.

Navigating Disclosure

For some, letting friends, family, and even colleagues know that they have received a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 offers some relief. It provides a simple way to explain any behaviors or behavioral patterns that might have seemed awry. For others, however, the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 is extremely private and is held close. Determining how you want to proceed with navigating your disclosure (or lack thereof) can be an important part of owning your diagnosis and navigating the changes you may be facing.

When deciding whether to disclose a novel Bipolar Disorder 2 diagnosis, be careful to weigh the possible pros and cons. In relationships, disclosing a diagnosis can be both positive and negative, simultaneously lifting a weight from loved ones’ shoulders and acknowledging the presence of a new challenge. At work, disclosure can mean securing legal rights for people with disabilities but could risk being viewed differently by coworkers and managers. Disclosure is entirely up to the person with the disorder, and the possible benefits and detriments can be weighed before making a definite decision. Be sure to take all of the time you may need to make an informed and comfortable decision.

Ongoing Treatment: Dedication And Consistency

Seeking treatment for Bipolar Disorder 2 is vital, as Bipolar Disorder is one of the mental disorders that requires a multi-pronged approach to treatment. To treat Bipolar Disorder 2, most people undergo both psychotherapy and pharmaceutical intervention, as the combination of both is considered the strongest and most effective way to manage ongoing symptoms. The rates of success with consistent treatment are quite high, and the risks associated with lapses in treatment or not entering into a treatment regimen at all are also high; Bipolar Disorder 2 may worsen, and hypomanic episodes may gradually shift into the manic episodes characteristic of Bipolar Disorder 1.

Living With Bipolar: Navigating Relationships

Navigating relationships following a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 can be difficult. However, learning the reason behind some behaviors that may have been putting a strain on your relationship can be useful. The knowledge can weigh on you and your partner, or you and your loved ones. To successfully navigate relationships with Bipolar Disorder, recognize that you may need to take some time. Learning how to manage medication, when to fit in therapy, and how to complete the “homework” from therapy can seem like a full-time job at first, as all of these changes represent significant differences in your life pre and post-diagnosis.

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Forging strong, healthy relationships is certainly possible when Bipolar Disorder 2 is a factor. With plenty of patience and compassion, people with Bipolar Disorder 2 and the people closest to them can navigate the challenges associated with relationships, including the tendency to withdraw, feeling distant or helpless, and a potential disconnect from a partner who may not fully understand the challenges of living with Bipolar Disorder.

Living With Bipolar Disorder 2

Learning that you have Bipolar Disorder 2 can be quite a shock; many people who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 initially seek treatment for depression symptoms, not realizing that the hypomania they experience is not a “normal” feeling but is indicative of the highs and lows associated with Bipolar Disorder. Although healing and treatment are important, many people with the disorder experience difficulty transitioning from living with untreated Bipolar Disorder to working through a treatment regimen. The behaviors and experiences that were considered normal, if painful and uncomfortable, may take some time and a great deal of effort to change.

Living with Bipolar Disorder 2 typically involves adjusting to the onset of different therapy types and the administration of various interventions. Medication alone can take weeks or even months to get to a comfortable space, while patients and mental health professionals make small adjustments to dosages and find the best medication regimen. Psychotherapy, too, can take some time to adjust to, as it requires the time investment required for the session itself. Any “homework,” so to speak, is given to the patient to encourage the continuation of practices discussed during sessions.

Living with Bipolar Disorder is far less about immediately eradicating the disorder and making sure symptoms are a thing of the past and far more about learning how to integrate the changes involved in Bipolar Disorder 2 treatment, including medication regimens, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. The changes that can be brought about by treatment may also require some adjustment; changes to sleeping habits, appetite, and more can be difficult to adjust to, even if they are considered positive changes. Adjusting to change takes time, and people living with Bipolar Disorder 2 need time, compassion, and patience from themselves and others as they navigate their disorder.