Defining Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

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Bipolar spectrum disorder is a category of mood disorders.  This category of mood disorders is characterized by manic episodes where a person experiences an unusual elevated mood.  Bipolar spectrum disorder can include full manic episodes or mild episodes called hypomanic episodes.  Also falling under the category of bipolar spectrum disorder are conditions where depressive episodes occur.


Bipolar spectrum disorder is often misunderstood because of the great variety of conditions which fall under this category. A person who experiences a manic episode followed by a depressive episode would be a characteristic case of bipolar that would often be recognized easily.  However, there is such a wide range within bipolar spectrum disorder that diagnosis is often difficult.

Bipolar spectrum disorder can include people who never really have major manic episodes or who have a mixed episode that has characteristics of both manic and depressive symptoms.

Identifying Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

To better aid I diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder a system was introduced in 1978 by J. Angst.  This system classifies where a person lies within the spectrum.  The following codes are used to identify different areas of the spectrum:

– M is severe mania
– D is severe depression
– m is less severe mania
– d is less severe depression

These letters are often used in combination to define a persons normal episodes such as mD is hypomania and depression.

Important Facts

Bipolar spectrum disorder includes bipolar type 1, bipolar type 2 and sub threshold bipolar disorder.  Bipolar type 1 is considered the classic form and involves reoccurring episodes of mania and depression.  Bipolar type 2 involves mild episodes of mania with depressive episodes.  Other bipolar disorders that do not fall into the type 1 or type 2  are considered sub threshold bipolar disorder.

Bipolar spectrum disorder is often misdiagnosed because the frequency of the episodes may not be too often enough to see that both manic and depressive episodes are occurring.  Additionally, manic episodes vary so much from individual to individual and can include a range of symptoms that are similar to other psychiatric conditions.

Bipolar spectrum disorder requires effective management and treatment to control the disease.  Often times treatment will completely control the condition and a person will feel they no longer need medication.  Going off medication can cause severe reoccurrences of the disorder though.  It is essential that treatment for bipolar is long term because it is never cured and can come back.

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  1. Dr Liz Miller
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Wow – Well done!!! I have only just discovered your blog, and as a former bipolar sufferer, who has also found salvation through a healthy lifestyle I agree with you!!!

    This is a wonderful website – Well done!!


  2. admin
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Liz , Many thanks its truly an honour to have you on the site :)

  3. Jenna Wilcox
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Hi there,

    I am writing from a production company that has been commissioned by the NHS to produce two very short films for the NHS Choices website. They are on Bipolar and Clinical depression.

    We are looking for a case study for both and wondering if you might consider taking part in our Bipolar film or might be able to point us in the right direction?

    These are aimed to show that you are not alone, there is help out there and it is manageable with the right help.

    I do have much more information that I could give you, so please do contact me if you are at all interested.

    My email address is

    Thank you very much

  4. scott armstrong
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Well i don’t really know what to say other than thank you so much this site has helped me to focus on getting help and possibly know what to say to my doctor as i have been to see him on many occasions but really struggled to describe how i was feeling. I think reading up on bi-polar has given me an idea on what to say to my gp when i visit him next i will be keeping a keen eye on this site in future and will certainly recommend this site to others. I’m not saying this site has cured me but it has given me hope that how i feel is describable and i’m not alone.I think it will be key to my future recovery as i don’t feel so helpless as i did just through reading some of the things on this site. I have tried to turn my life around on many occasions but have struggled to maintain the energy ,(or high points as i call them ) needed to get things moving as i’ve always found help to be a long drawn out process with very little in the way of visible progress. I know it takes patience but i often find i run out of steam and enthusiasm by the time i get round to an appointment or any help, it’s the highs where i think right i’m going to get help and then it takes so long that in between i feel better and forget it all then i hit the ground with a bump and i’m back to square one again. Anyway this site has given me a boost to get something done about this horrible affliction, i know i’ve probably rambled on a bit, i was going to edit this but it’s how i feel so i won’t, just by reading this back to myself i can see how jumbled my head is so i think i’ll start keeping a diary, as you wrote in the article i read then i can see a pattern in my feelings. cheers , scott

  5. admin
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Hi Scott , Thanks I put alot of hard work into keeping this site up to date so I am very glad it has helped you !!

  6. scott armstrong
    Posted February 2, 2010 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    god i think i have just written something nearly the same as that on another page please dont think bad of me it was about two weeks ago and have since got help but seeing it there written in front of me in more or less the same words has helped in a way at least there is a bit of continuity sorry for cluttering up the site with my ramblings god ! i’m so confused :o(scott

  7. mick
    Posted June 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    scott just read ur post.. it’s like the words came from my mouth… its not fun been reliable then unreliabe …and so on. i just found out what was wrong/right wit me last week… if i’d known sooner i think my life up until now would have been very differant. thanks

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