Bipolar disorder, a brain disorder affecting moods, is usually broken up into four different types: bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic and mixed bipolar disorder. As science and medicine continue to grow and evolve, and as more is understood about mental health disorders, these disorders can be more clearly defined and separated.

At this point, there is some contention about mixed bipolar being the fourth type of bipolar disorder. Medical professionals disagree on its diagnosis at times, and it can often fall into the category of bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS). BP-NOS is meant to be a catchall for those suffering from mood swings outside of their normal range of behavior but not fitting into one of the other categories of bipolar disorder. Mixed bipolar disorder is not included in the current diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, although it does list criteria for mixed features, and there is evidence of mixed symptoms not falling into the other categories of bipolar disorder.

What Is Mixed Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed when someone suffers from sustained cycles of mania and also cycles of depression, usually at different times. Periods of mania include increased levels of energy and activity, elevated moods and agitation. Manic episodes can be dangerous and lead to poor decision-making and risky behavior. Depression is characterized by extreme sadness, fatigue, feelings of isolation, lack of interest in most everything, suppressed appetite, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In most types of bipolar disorder, these symptoms are distinct and appear in separate episodes lasting a few days or even a few months before cycling. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed when these symptoms affect daily life and are chronic in nature.

At times, these symptoms can exist concurrently or in rapid succession, however. When this happens, it can be thought to be mixed bipolar disorder. Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of agitation mixed with despair
  • Impulsive, racing thoughts coupled with aggression and self-destructive thoughts and actions
  • Irritability and feelings of hopelessness
  • Rapid speech and anguish

Rapid cycling is characterized by four different episodes, either manic, hypomanic, or depressive, within a 12-month period. These states of rapid cycling or mixed depression coupled with periods of mania are often dangerous. Left untreated, bipolar disorder in any form can get worse and have tragic consequences. Unfortunately, suicide is a real threat to those suffering from bipolar disorder, with 25 to 50 percent of those suffering attempting suicide at least once, as published by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Another risk factor is the tendency of those suffering from bipolar disorder to also abuse substances, increasing the odds for addiction and a co-occurring disorder that make all symptoms worse and treatment more difficult.

Getting Help

No matter which type of bipolar disorder is diagnosed, help is available. All forms of bipolar disorder are treatable, and symptoms can be managed with proper care. Black Bear Lodge is a treatment center that focuses on treating the entire person and not just on managing a disorder. Maintaining a consistent routine, including a nutritious diet, exercise plan, and sleep schedule, promotes a healthy physical self that is more apt to be able to focus on mental and spiritual health. Psychotherapy is an important tool as well with different therapies tailored to specific needs.

Black Bear Lodge is a healing place that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment and is able to offer integrated treatment for both substance abuse and bipolar disorder when necessary. Black Bear Lodge is located in a serene environment that is perfect for helping individuals find their center and refocus. Call us to learn more.