Bipolar disorder is hard to navigate and generally requires professional support and prescribed medication. You cannot “diagnose,” “fix,” or “cure” someone, but you can be a part of their wellness journey. Likewise, you can be a compassionate, nonjudgemental listener who connects them to the resources they need. It is important to understand that people in the middle of a depressive or manic episode may experience lack of insight, which means they may not not be aware something is wrong.
There are three types of bipolar disorder, all characterized by episodic shifts in mood, energy, and effect. These shifts often can be sudden and surprising to the individual and others, and there may or may not be an obvious, identifiable trigger.
Bipolar I disorder — defined by manic episodes, although depressive and mixed episodes may occur.
Bipolar II disorder — defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes.
Cyclothymic disorder (Cyclothymia) — defined by episodes that are more mild but persist for at least two years in adults or at least one year in children and adolescents. The intensity does not need to meet the diagnostic requirements for types I and II, as cyclothymia is a more persistent but less intense experience.