Q. I have been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I am still confused (after reading the previous emails) about the statement that bipolar II is a symptom. Why is bipolar I an illness and Bipolar II a symptom? Also is it normal for someone with bipolar II to suffer from severe depression about 70% of the year with only sporadic days of mild hypomania?


  A. Bipolar I is a symptom too. It is a behavior that usually follows a certain course, but not always. Headaches, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and depression are all symptoms, too. Without getting into it too much, the reason to look at it as a symptom is so you can look at the other symptoms that go with the BP II to optimize treatment. I would treat a BP II with obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks much differently than one with only hypomanias and depression. Discuss your question with your doctor. Its the best place to start.