How can you tell if you have bipolar II disorder?

Recently, Mariah Carey opened up about living with bipolar II disorder. We admire Carey for speaking up and working to end the stigma around mental health. But we’re still wondering: How can you tell if you have bipolar II?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of mania interspersed with periods of depression. During a manic episode, people feel energetic and elated, and this sudden surge of energy can cause sleeplessness and reckless behavior like excessive spending or drug abuse. The NIMH reports that people with bipolar I experience full manic episodes, which sometimes involve hallucinations or delusions. On the other hand, people with bipolar II are more likely to experience hypomania instead — a less intense version of mania.

Hypomania is milder than mania, so during a hypomanic episode, you might just feel more productive than usual. This can in turn make hypomania more difficult to recognize. According to the Mayo Clinic, in order to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you must have experienced at least one depressive episode and at least one manic or hypomanic episode, so those who have hypomania may not recognize that the could have this mental illness.

Bipolar II is also fairly prevalent. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that about 2.6 percent of Americans are living with bipolar disorder. It affects women and men pretty equally, and although you can be diagnosed at any time, symptoms usually develop around age 25.

If any of these symptoms sound like you, seek medical help. Both bipolar I and bipolar II can be managed through medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. Living with bipolar disorder is challenging, but with treatment, many people learn to manage their illness. Above all else, it’s important to recognize that, like any mental illness, bipolar disorder is a disease, and we should work together to end the stigma surrounding it.

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