Officially, bipolar disorder is an episodic mood disorder characterized by extreme shifts in mood, from depressive lows to manic highs. Unofficially, I would describe it as a cycling illness. It's as if our brains are in perpetual motion. Thus, we are constantly anticipating the next phase in the cycle - or cycles, if you like.
Yes, it's very clear we are talking about more than one, from seasonal changes to circadian rhythms. On top of mood, our thoughts and volitions are also shifting, along with energy levels, and not necessarily in sync. But for the sake of simplicity let's refer to the whole dynamic as our mood cycle.
Is the hypomania (mania lite) we are in a prelude to full-blown mania or are we about to crash into depression? Or perhaps we're in for smooth sailing. If we are feeling stresed or missing out on sleep, how does that affect our cycle - what is the likely consequence and can we head it off at the pass?
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) has divided bipolar disorder into two types, Bipolar I and Bipolar II, both which are severe and debilitating. In addition, the DSM-IV lists as separate disorders "Cyclothymia," which can be described as a "bipolar lite," and schizoaffective disorder, which borders on schizophrenia.