What’s The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder & Depression?

A man in a red sweater rubbing his temples with his fingersThe difference between bipolar disorder, also commonly known as manic depressive disorder and depression is that a person suffering from major depression has experienced a period of at least two full, consecutive weeks of several of the following:

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  • Depressed mood or anger
  • Significant changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleeping  patterns
  • Decreased libido
  • Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • In severe cases, thoughts of suicide

The individual with bipolar disorder may have several of the same symptoms as someone with depression for the same duration of time, but in addition there is a period following the depressive episode where they may experience several of the following:

  • Elevated sense of self
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Engage in impulsive behaviors
  • Distractibility
  • Rapid speech and thoughts

In addition to the above symptoms, I have had patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder describe the manic period as the Energizer bunny at full-throttle, with no way to slow down. A person with bipolar disorder may not always or ever experience depressive episodes, but do experience periods of manic behaviors that may be present from several days to weeks. A qualified mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment depending on the individual.


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