How is unipolar depression different from bipolar depression?

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Ruth White, MPH
Social Work

Unipolar depression means that there is only one 'pole' to this illness and that is the depressive side. Bipolar depression means that it is one end of a syndrome that also includes mania which is the other pole - there fore two poles make it bipolar. Unipolar dperession means that the person gets depression but no mania. they go through down cycles and hten return to 'normal'. Bipolar depression can behave in the same way but they also have times when they become manic or hypomanic which means they 'swing past normal' and go to the other pole. 

Sometimes when people with bipolar depression go to seek help for the first time they are diagnosed with unipolar depression because their presenting proble is depression and some practitioners may not take a complete hisotry to note that the person also has periods when they are very 'up' which is an indicator for bipolar depression. 

Treating only the unipolar depression with anti-depressants and no mood stabilizers can result in a manic episode caused by the anti-dpressants sending the person too far towards the manic pole.

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry

Bipolar depression is the same as unipolar depression - both meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder. They include symptoms like low mood, problems with sleeping and eating, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and suicidal thoughts.

But there's much more to bipolar disorder than just the depression. While people experience depressive episodes as part of this illness, they also experience times when their mood is "high" - known as hypomanic or manic episodes. If someone has unipolar depression, they do not experience these highs in their mood, they only experience the lows.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.