People that have major depression feel sad, lack energy, lose interest in doing things they enjoy, and feel physical pain. People with bipolar disorder also go through periods with the same symptoms. However, the difference is that sometimes they go into a period of mania characterized by high risk behavior, agitation, high energy levels, and increased impulsivity. Some people who are diagnosed with clinical depression may actually suffer from bipolar disorder because doctors can only make a diagnosis using the current symptoms.
A Answers (5)
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI) answeredHelpful? 2 people found this helpful.
Jeffrey Gardere, PhD, Psychology, answered
Major depression is different from bipolar disorder in that the main symptom for depression is unipolar, while bipolar disorder has symptoms of both depression and mania. Watch psychologist Jeffrey Gardere, PhD, explain these important differences.
Charles Sophy, Psychiatry, answeredWith bipolar disorder you have symptoms of depression as well as hypomania or mania. Instead of having just major depression, you will have periods of normal mood and then high mood swings.
Most people will seek medical treatment if they have major depression. But who wants to take medication to calm down the high energy of hypomania or mania? Bipolar disorder used to be called "manic depression". Today, experts understand that people with bipolar disorder experience all types of symptoms on the bipolar spectrum.
The different types of bipolar symptoms are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. Using this diagnostic manual, your doctor can determine if you have depression only (unipolar depression) or bipolar disorder (depression with hypomania or mania).
Ruth White, MPH, Social Work, answeredMajor depression is one aspect of bipolar disorder but bipolar disorder also includes mania, which is a high mood that is not necessarily a 'happy' mood but in its extreme can cause psychosis. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder is diagnosed with major depression because that is when they seek help and so the mania aspect of their illness is not diagnosed because the practitioner may not have asked the questions about mania. This is becoming less so as doctors are getting more aware of the risks of prescribing anti-depressants to people with bipolar disorder who may become manic as a result.
Julie A. Fast, Psychology, answered
Good question and luckily an easy one to answer. The main difference is mania.
- A person absolutely can’t have bipolar disorder unless they have had a manic episode. There are no exceptions. I’ve heard people say their doctor thinks they might have bipolar. I say, “What is your mania like?” If the person says, “What’s mania?” there is a problem and I tell them to get online and take a mania test and then see a person with psychiatric diagnosis experience.
- Another difference is that bipolar depression is usually much more difficult to treat than unipolar depression. (Unipolar is the term used to differentiate the difference between major depression and bipolar.) For example, people with bipolar disorder can’t take anti depressants alone as a treatment for the illness due to the danger of mania caused by the anti depressants. (Anti depressants can be used with great caution in combination with mood stabilizers and/or anti psychotics.) One of my goals as a bipolar educator is to let all health care professionals know they must screen for mania in the family before prescribing an anti depressant.
Many people with unipolar depression can successfully use the anti depressants. This is a big difference.
Both depressions share a lot of anxiety, but overall, unipolar depression is much less complicated to treat as it is a purer form of depression whereas bipolar depression can be mixed with mania, anxiety and even psychosis at the same time!
With all of my heart, I wish I could take anti depressants, but they all make me manic and increase my rapid cycling. I believe that the 15 anti depressants I was given for almost five years between 1995 and 2000 made my bipolar rapid cycling much worse. (Yes,15. The SSRI drugs were newer back then and the danger of mania was not as well known!)
Others use them successfully with their mood stabilizers and/or anti psychotics. I don’t want it to sound like they can’t work for people with bipolar depression. They can. Just use caution.
There is no question that unipolar depression and bipolar depression feel the same in most ways. They both feel terrible. But they are different.