Bipolar Disorder vs Depression: Key Differences

It is easy to confuse bipolar disorder with depression. This is due to the fact that bipolar disorder can cause episodes of depression but it is important to be aware they are not the same condition. 

The main difference between the two is that depression is unipolar. There’s no high with depression whereas those suffering from bipolar disorder will display symptoms of mania or hypomania. The best way to understand the two is to explore the symptoms of both. 

Symptoms Of Depression

This disorder is characterized as an extended period where an individual suffers from a depressed mood or deep sadness. Typically, this will last two weeks or more and can go on for months if it is not treated. Individuals may also show no pleasure or interest in any activities. Symptoms can include:

  • Low levels of energy throughout this period
  • Feeling worthless and experiencing severe guilt
  • Inability to concentrate, act decisively or think clearly
  • Severe changes to weight from dieting or binge eating
  • Inability to sleep or constantly sleeping throughout the day

These symptoms can cause a variety of problems in an individual’s personal and professional life. They will struggle to socialize, complete work, or complete daily activities. To meet the diagnostic requirements of this condition, there can be no past history of manic episodes. 

Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

One of the reasons why these conditions get confused is because people suffering from bipolar disorder may experience all the symptoms of depression mentioned above. However, they at times will also display the symptoms of mania or hypomania. Those with bipolar disorder will have periods of mood elevation, followed by depressive episodes.

During a period of mood elevation, an individual may be irritated and completely focused on achieving goals. These periods can last for weeks or even months and other symptoms may include:

  • A lack of sleep
  • Being more talkative
  • Increases in confidence
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Various reckless activities

Similar to depression, this condition will result in issues with social functioning. It is not uncommon for patients to require hospitalization to avoid issues such as self-harm. 

Treatment For Depression And Bipolar Disorder

There are multiple treatment options for those suffering from bipolar disorder or depression. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to provide beneficial results for patients. Particularly, when highly structured routines are put in place so that they can manage their condition more effectively. Therapy will also often involve including the family, using them as a support system for the individual. 

Additionally, antidepressants and mood stabilizers can both be used to manage an individual’s mood and ensure they do not reach dangerous extremes. 

Is your family member, loved one or friend showing signs of bipolar disorder or depression? Do you think you may be suffering from one of these conditions? If untreated, these conditions can be dangerous. Contact High Desert Psychiatry today for expert advice, a potential diagnosis and possible treatment options.