Bipolar II Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment (cont.)

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Bipolar II disorder is thought to be more common in women than in men. As with depression, the hypomanic symptoms of bipolar II disorder can occur in the postpartum period. Children and adolescents with bipolar II disorder tend to experience episodes that are rapid cycling, having at least four mood problem episodes in a 12-month period.

In order to qualify for the diagnosis of bipolar II disorder, individuals must experience at least one episode of major depression and at least one hypomanic episode during their lifetime. Symptoms of major depression last at least two weeks and include depressed or irritable mood and a number of associated symptoms, like change in sleep or appetite, suicidal thoughts, plans, or actions, low energy, tendency to isolate from others, and loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities. Diagnostic criteria for a hypomanic episode include symptoms like elevated or irritable mood, grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, excessive speech, racing thoughts, trouble focusing, excessive activity, suicidal thoughts, plans, or actions, and behaviors that indicate poor judgment that last for at least four days.

As with most other mental disorders, there is no single cause for bipolar II disorder. For example, it is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Genetically, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia have much in common, in that the two disorders share a number of the same risk genes. However, both illnesses also have some genetic factors that are unique. Stress has been found to be a significant contributor to the development of most mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder.

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