Is It Depression or Bipolar Disorder?

Reviewed Oct 19, 2017

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Summary

  • Both disrupt normal life.
  • Bipolar disorder is depression plus mania.
  • Bipolar disorder is often mistreated as depression.

Everyone feels down now and then. We all have our good days and our bad days. A hard day at work or at school can leave you feeling low. A bad relationship, or ending a good one, can also make you feel down. If these low periods last more than two weeks and are causing problems in your life, you may have clinical depression.

Symptoms of depression

Some of the signs include:

  • Lack of energy and interest
  • Increased sadness
  • Losing interest in cleanliness
  • Anger and worry
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble paying attention and making choices
  • Withdrawal
  • Thoughts of killing oneself
  • Unable to enjoy things that brought happiness before
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Being agitated or slowed down

Clinical depression is also known as unipolar depression or major depressive disorder. This means a person only has periods of low moods. Someone who has both low (depressed) moods and high (manic) moods or a combination of both is said to have bipolar disorder. While in a low period, this person will have signs of depression. At other times, he will show signs of mania. If both happen at the same time, it is called a mixed state. A milder form of mood elevation, hypomania, can be linked to depressive episodes. This is called bipolar type II.

Symptoms of mania

Some of the signs include:

  • Boosts of high energy and activity
  • Hasty or aggressive behavior
  • Rapid thoughts and speech
  • Exaggerated ego
  • Being overly hopeful
  • Increased irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Less need for sleep
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Overuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Spending money, buying things they cannot afford
  • Distractibility
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

These periods of mania do not always happen right away. Sometimes it is years before a person with bipolar disorder feels these “highs.” Once a person does have manic episodes, she doesn’t always see it as a problem. She may initially like how she feels during these times and may only seek help when feeling unhappy. It is often the people who know the person well who first suspect something is wrong.  The person with bipolar mania or hypomania may be angry and disagree with the family or friend who calls the mania to their attention.

All of this makes it hard to diagnose and sometimes years can pass until the proper diagnosis is made. Sometimes many bouts of low spirits can happen before the first manic episode. Many people with bipolar disorder are treated as having unipolar depression only. They may show only partial response to treatment. If they do not respond well to antidepressant treatment or experience anxiety, irritability, or other symptoms of mania, they should notify their doctor right away. Medications will most likely need to be discontinued and others prescribed. This is one reason why a daily chart keeping track of mood, energy, and other factors such as sleep is important. It gives a good map for the person and doctor to understand what is happening and to work together for effective treatment.

Getting a proper diagnosis

Besides depression, there are other illnesses that make the detection of bipolar disorder hard. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among them. Other social phobias and anxiety disorders often co-exist with it. Drug and alcohol use disorders can further complicate the diagnosis.

A physical exam and lab tests are needed to rule out other illnesses. Next, a full mental evaluation may be needed. Your doctor might send to you to a psychiatrist. It’s key to give them a full list of symptoms and any family history of mental illness. It is a good idea to bring a loved one with you who can also give key information. Keeping a life chart to track daily moods, sleep patterns, and life events can be helpful for watching the symptoms and for informing treatment possibilities.

Getting the right treatment

Bipolar disorder is usually a lifelong illness. Like high blood pressure or diabetes, it does not go away on its own. There may be time between episodes, but they will most likely return throughout one’s lifetime. Failure to treat bipolar disorder tends to make it worse. Treatment during quiet periods of the illness is important to avoid further episodes. Mood stabilizers and talk therapy are most often used. Sometimes, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where an electric impulse to the brain is given under anesthesia, is very helpful.  

Prescribed antidepressants may cause mania symptoms to re-occur. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may also add to suicidal thoughts in people with bipolar disorder. Close monitoring is needed, and these symptoms should be reported right away to your health care provider. A daily chart helps.

People respond differently to medicines. Sometimes changes are needed if the drugs are not working or stopped working. Be patient and work with your doctor to find out what is best for you. When properly diagnosed and treated, bipolar disorder can be controlled. Once you begin feeling better, make sure you keep on taking the medicine as prescribed. This will help avoid relapses and let you live a healthy and productive life.

Resources

The Balanced Mind Foundation
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance 
www.dbsalliance.org/

Mood Disorder Questionnaire
www.dbsalliance.org/MDQ

National Institute of Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml; National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000926.htm; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Scott, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Both disrupt normal life.
  • Bipolar disorder is depression plus mania.
  • Bipolar disorder is often mistreated as depression.

Everyone feels down now and then. We all have our good days and our bad days. A hard day at work or at school can leave you feeling low. A bad relationship, or ending a good one, can also make you feel down. If these low periods last more than two weeks and are causing problems in your life, you may have clinical depression.

Symptoms of depression

Some of the signs include:

  • Lack of energy and interest
  • Increased sadness
  • Losing interest in cleanliness
  • Anger and worry
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble paying attention and making choices
  • Withdrawal
  • Thoughts of killing oneself
  • Unable to enjoy things that brought happiness before
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Being agitated or slowed down

Clinical depression is also known as unipolar depression or major depressive disorder. This means a person only has periods of low moods. Someone who has both low (depressed) moods and high (manic) moods or a combination of both is said to have bipolar disorder. While in a low period, this person will have signs of depression. At other times, he will show signs of mania. If both happen at the same time, it is called a mixed state. A milder form of mood elevation, hypomania, can be linked to depressive episodes. This is called bipolar type II.

Symptoms of mania

Some of the signs include:

  • Boosts of high energy and activity
  • Hasty or aggressive behavior
  • Rapid thoughts and speech
  • Exaggerated ego
  • Being overly hopeful
  • Increased irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Less need for sleep
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Overuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Spending money, buying things they cannot afford
  • Distractibility
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

These periods of mania do not always happen right away. Sometimes it is years before a person with bipolar disorder feels these “highs.” Once a person does have manic episodes, she doesn’t always see it as a problem. She may initially like how she feels during these times and may only seek help when feeling unhappy. It is often the people who know the person well who first suspect something is wrong.  The person with bipolar mania or hypomania may be angry and disagree with the family or friend who calls the mania to their attention.

All of this makes it hard to diagnose and sometimes years can pass until the proper diagnosis is made. Sometimes many bouts of low spirits can happen before the first manic episode. Many people with bipolar disorder are treated as having unipolar depression only. They may show only partial response to treatment. If they do not respond well to antidepressant treatment or experience anxiety, irritability, or other symptoms of mania, they should notify their doctor right away. Medications will most likely need to be discontinued and others prescribed. This is one reason why a daily chart keeping track of mood, energy, and other factors such as sleep is important. It gives a good map for the person and doctor to understand what is happening and to work together for effective treatment.

Getting a proper diagnosis

Besides depression, there are other illnesses that make the detection of bipolar disorder hard. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among them. Other social phobias and anxiety disorders often co-exist with it. Drug and alcohol use disorders can further complicate the diagnosis.

A physical exam and lab tests are needed to rule out other illnesses. Next, a full mental evaluation may be needed. Your doctor might send to you to a psychiatrist. It’s key to give them a full list of symptoms and any family history of mental illness. It is a good idea to bring a loved one with you who can also give key information. Keeping a life chart to track daily moods, sleep patterns, and life events can be helpful for watching the symptoms and for informing treatment possibilities.

Getting the right treatment

Bipolar disorder is usually a lifelong illness. Like high blood pressure or diabetes, it does not go away on its own. There may be time between episodes, but they will most likely return throughout one’s lifetime. Failure to treat bipolar disorder tends to make it worse. Treatment during quiet periods of the illness is important to avoid further episodes. Mood stabilizers and talk therapy are most often used. Sometimes, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where an electric impulse to the brain is given under anesthesia, is very helpful.  

Prescribed antidepressants may cause mania symptoms to re-occur. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may also add to suicidal thoughts in people with bipolar disorder. Close monitoring is needed, and these symptoms should be reported right away to your health care provider. A daily chart helps.

People respond differently to medicines. Sometimes changes are needed if the drugs are not working or stopped working. Be patient and work with your doctor to find out what is best for you. When properly diagnosed and treated, bipolar disorder can be controlled. Once you begin feeling better, make sure you keep on taking the medicine as prescribed. This will help avoid relapses and let you live a healthy and productive life.

Resources

The Balanced Mind Foundation
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance 
www.dbsalliance.org/

Mood Disorder Questionnaire
www.dbsalliance.org/MDQ

National Institute of Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml; National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000926.htm; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Scott, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Both disrupt normal life.
  • Bipolar disorder is depression plus mania.
  • Bipolar disorder is often mistreated as depression.

Everyone feels down now and then. We all have our good days and our bad days. A hard day at work or at school can leave you feeling low. A bad relationship, or ending a good one, can also make you feel down. If these low periods last more than two weeks and are causing problems in your life, you may have clinical depression.

Symptoms of depression

Some of the signs include:

  • Lack of energy and interest
  • Increased sadness
  • Losing interest in cleanliness
  • Anger and worry
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble paying attention and making choices
  • Withdrawal
  • Thoughts of killing oneself
  • Unable to enjoy things that brought happiness before
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Being agitated or slowed down

Clinical depression is also known as unipolar depression or major depressive disorder. This means a person only has periods of low moods. Someone who has both low (depressed) moods and high (manic) moods or a combination of both is said to have bipolar disorder. While in a low period, this person will have signs of depression. At other times, he will show signs of mania. If both happen at the same time, it is called a mixed state. A milder form of mood elevation, hypomania, can be linked to depressive episodes. This is called bipolar type II.

Symptoms of mania

Some of the signs include:

  • Boosts of high energy and activity
  • Hasty or aggressive behavior
  • Rapid thoughts and speech
  • Exaggerated ego
  • Being overly hopeful
  • Increased irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Less need for sleep
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Overuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Spending money, buying things they cannot afford
  • Distractibility
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

These periods of mania do not always happen right away. Sometimes it is years before a person with bipolar disorder feels these “highs.” Once a person does have manic episodes, she doesn’t always see it as a problem. She may initially like how she feels during these times and may only seek help when feeling unhappy. It is often the people who know the person well who first suspect something is wrong.  The person with bipolar mania or hypomania may be angry and disagree with the family or friend who calls the mania to their attention.

All of this makes it hard to diagnose and sometimes years can pass until the proper diagnosis is made. Sometimes many bouts of low spirits can happen before the first manic episode. Many people with bipolar disorder are treated as having unipolar depression only. They may show only partial response to treatment. If they do not respond well to antidepressant treatment or experience anxiety, irritability, or other symptoms of mania, they should notify their doctor right away. Medications will most likely need to be discontinued and others prescribed. This is one reason why a daily chart keeping track of mood, energy, and other factors such as sleep is important. It gives a good map for the person and doctor to understand what is happening and to work together for effective treatment.

Getting a proper diagnosis

Besides depression, there are other illnesses that make the detection of bipolar disorder hard. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among them. Other social phobias and anxiety disorders often co-exist with it. Drug and alcohol use disorders can further complicate the diagnosis.

A physical exam and lab tests are needed to rule out other illnesses. Next, a full mental evaluation may be needed. Your doctor might send to you to a psychiatrist. It’s key to give them a full list of symptoms and any family history of mental illness. It is a good idea to bring a loved one with you who can also give key information. Keeping a life chart to track daily moods, sleep patterns, and life events can be helpful for watching the symptoms and for informing treatment possibilities.

Getting the right treatment

Bipolar disorder is usually a lifelong illness. Like high blood pressure or diabetes, it does not go away on its own. There may be time between episodes, but they will most likely return throughout one’s lifetime. Failure to treat bipolar disorder tends to make it worse. Treatment during quiet periods of the illness is important to avoid further episodes. Mood stabilizers and talk therapy are most often used. Sometimes, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where an electric impulse to the brain is given under anesthesia, is very helpful.  

Prescribed antidepressants may cause mania symptoms to re-occur. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may also add to suicidal thoughts in people with bipolar disorder. Close monitoring is needed, and these symptoms should be reported right away to your health care provider. A daily chart helps.

People respond differently to medicines. Sometimes changes are needed if the drugs are not working or stopped working. Be patient and work with your doctor to find out what is best for you. When properly diagnosed and treated, bipolar disorder can be controlled. Once you begin feeling better, make sure you keep on taking the medicine as prescribed. This will help avoid relapses and let you live a healthy and productive life.

Resources

The Balanced Mind Foundation
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance 
www.dbsalliance.org/

Mood Disorder Questionnaire
www.dbsalliance.org/MDQ

National Institute of Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml; National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000926.htm; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Scott, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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