Are bipolar I and bipolar II treated the same?

Essentially yes, though with one significant exception. The difference between bipolar I and II is the difference between hypomania and mania (mild to moderate mood elevation vs. acute mood elevation). When one has a full manic episode or a manic psychosis, hospitalization is typically required, whereas if one has bipolar II then hospitalization for control of elevated mood is usually not necessary. A second difference reflects the reality that there are more frequent depressive episodes and with longer duration in bipolar II disorder. Thus, sometimes hospitalization for depression in bipolar II may become necessary.
Ronald R. Fieve, MD

I have been the first in USA in the use of lithium for bipolar illness and my study about the bipolar IIB still gives me the opportunity to write books and articles about it. I see many patients who have a lifetime history of going on and off in medications. Thinking that they are now "well", they stop taking the medications. Then in a few weeks , they call my office asking  to see me again. Bipolar disorder II doesn't go away. For bipolar I hospitalization is a need most of the times. One drug can be the aripiprazole for the treatments of acute manic episodes. It depends on the gravity of the illness but they are both treated with lithium. 

Ruth White, MPH
Social Work

Bipolar I disorder presents as episodes of mania and depression that are severe and is treated with mood stabilizers, some antipsychotics for a severe manic episode, benzodiazepenes (aka tranquilizers), anti-depressants and in rare occasions elctroconvulsive therapies, psychotherapy is also used to manage problematic thoughts and behaviors and symptom management strategies also help reduce the onset, frequency and length of symptoms. 


Bipolar II disorder is milder with depression alternating cycling with milder forms of hypomania. Though the episodes of mania are not as severe as in Type 1, the treatment is the same.

It should be noted that anti-depressants sometimes trigger manic episodes so this is often avoided and the focus of treatment is in symptom management, mood stabilizers and psychotherapy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.