Understanding the Bipolar Spectrum

Dr. Jorge Galindo and his wife Miriam run a private practice in Irvine, California, where they provide family, marriage, and adolescent therapy. During his clinical training, Dr. Jorge Galindo interned at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, and received special training in assessing and treating bipolar spectrum disorders.

Bipolar disorder is not a singular diagnosis, but rather a spectrum of conditions separated into several categories based on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Bipolar disorder I is the type on the bipolar spectrum with the most pronounced periods of mania, a state of agitation and elevated mood. People with bipolar I can have manic episodes lasting for days or weeks, and these episodes are often separated by periods of mild to severe depression.

The manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder II, known as hypomania, are less severe than those of bipolar I. However, people diagnosed with bipolar II suffer from longer periods of depression than those with bipolar I.

The third commonly recognized form of bipolar disorder is cyclothymia. Manic and depressive episodes for those with cyclothymia are less severe than for those with bipolar I or II. All three of these classifications are general guidelines for diagnosis, and not all patients fit perfectly within a single section of the bipolar spectrum.