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Bipolar VS Depression

Bipolar disorder and depression have many similarities. But they also have some key differences. It's important to know how to tell one from the other to get the right treatment.

Depression is more than just feeling low. It's a deep sadness or emptiness you can't shake. You might feel hopeless, worthless, and restless. You might lose interest in things that you used to enjoy. Depression (also called major depressive disorder or MDD) often goes hand-in-hand with sleep problems, changes in appetite, and trouble concentrating. It can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. People who suffer with depression might have some days that are better than others. But without proper treatment, their mood tends to remain low.

Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) is different. If you have it, you have extreme mood swings. You experience periods of depression (similar to MDD). But you also have periods of great highs.

Bipolar refers to the opposite ends, or poles, of the emotional spectrum -- the highs (mania) and the lows (depression). You might be severely depressed for a period of hours, days, weeks, or even months before entering a manic period. The mania could range from several days to two months or longer. It's also possible to have a type of bipolar disorder in which you experience manic and depressive symptoms at the same time. You might feel sad and hopeless but also be very agitated and restless.

The highs of bipolar disorder might feel enjoyable. But they also can be dangerous. Risky behavior could put you in physical danger. And mania is usually followed by extreme depression.

Bipolar is much rarer than depression.

Recognizing Mania

If you have bipolar disorder and are having a manic episode, you might be very energetic, get very little sleep because you're so wired, and find yourself talking faster because your thoughts are racing. You might feel like the world's best multitasker. You might also take risks that you normally wouldn't take. Examples could include going on a spending spree or driving recklessly, having daring sexual encounters.

Sometimes this kind of behavior is easy to spot, but not always. That's especially true if you have a milder form of a high, called hypomania. You might feel good, be happy that you're extra energetic, and think that you're just being productive. Friends and family members may be better able to notice that you're acting out of character.

The Right Treatment

Getting the correct diagnosis isn't always easy. A mental health expert who only sees you at your low points might not know about your manic behavior unless you or someone who knows you well brings it up. And some people with bipolar disorder may also have additional conditions that make both diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Examples include substance abuse or an anxiety or eating disorder.

If you think you might have bipolar disorder, it's important to raise your concerns with a mental health expert and work closely with them to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. Proper treatment is often a combination of counseling and medication. It's the best way to manage your symptoms.

A mood stabilizing medication, such as lithium or divalproex is often used to manage bipolar disorder. Some people take antidepressants in addition to a mood stabilizer or an antipsychotic medication. Taking an antidepressant by itself could actually trigger a manic episode. That's another important reason to figure out if you have bipolar disorder or depression.

Over time, your condition may shift and your medications may need to be adjusted . Your healthcare provider may encourage you to track your symptoms. By recording your daily mood, sleep patterns, life events, and other details, it may help you and your provider stay on top of your condition and make sure that you get the most effective treatment possible.

What Is It?

Sometimes called manic depression, bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood. People who have it may spend weeks feeling like they're on top of the world before plunging into a deep depression. The length of each high and low varies greatly from person to person.

What the Depression Phase Is Like

Without treatment, a person with bipolar disorder may have intense episodes of depression. Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, and trouble concentrating. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy. It’s also common to gain or lose weight, sleep too much or too little, and even think about suicide.

When Someone Is Manic

During this phase, people feel super-charged and think they can do anything. Their self-esteem soars out of control and it’s hard for them to sit still. They talk more, are easily distracted, their thoughts race, and they don’t sleep enough. It often leads to reckless behavior, such as spending sprees, cheating, fast driving, and substance abuse. Three or more of these symptoms nearly every day for a week accompanied by feelings of intense excitement may signal a manic episode.

Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II

People with bipolar I disorder have manic phases for at least a week. Many also have separate depression phases, too.

Those with bipolar ll have bouts of major depression, but instead of full manic episodes, they have low-grade hypomanic swings that are less intense and may last less than a week. They may seem fine, even like the “life of the party,” though family and friends notice their mood changes.

What's a "Mixed Episode"?

When people with bipolar disorder have depression and mania symptoms at the same time, or very close together, this is called a manic or depressive episode with mixed features. This can lead to unpredictable behavior, such as taking dangerous risks when feeling hopeless and suicidal but energized and agitated. Mood episodes involving mixed features may be somewhat more common in women and in people who develop bipolar disorder at a young age.

What Are the Causes?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes bipolar disorder. Current theories hold that the disorder may result from a combination of genetic and other biological -- as well as environmental -- factors. Scientists think that brain circuits involved in the regulation of mood, energy, thinking, and biological rhythms may function abnormally in people with bipolar disorder resulting in the mood and other changes associated with the illness

Who Is at Risk?

Men and women both get bipolar disorder. In most cases, symptoms usually start in people who are 15-30 years old. More rarely, it can begin in childhood. The condition can sometimes run in families, but not everyone in a family may have it.

How It Affects Daily Life

When it’s not under control, bipolar disorder can cause problems in many areas of life, including your job, relationships, sleep, health, and money. It can lead to risky behavior. It can be stressful for the people who care about you and aren’t sure how to help or may not understand what’s going on.

Risky Behavior

Many people with bipolar disorder have trouble with drugs or alcohol. They may drink or abuse drugs to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of their mood swings. Substance misuse also may be prone to occur as part of the recklessness and pleasure-seeking associated with mania.

Suicidal Thinking

People with bipolar disorder are 10-20 times more likely to commit suicide than others. Warning signs include talking about suicide, putting their affairs in order, and doing very risky things. If you know someone who may be at risk, call this hotline. SADAG 0800 567 567

If the person has a plan to commit suicide, call emergency services or help them get to an emergency room immediately.

How Doctors Diagnose It

A key step is to rule out other possible causes of extreme mood swings, including other conditions or side effects of some medicines. Your doctor will give you a checkup and ask you questions. You may get lab tests, too. A psychiatrist usually makes the diagnosis after carefully considering all of these things. They may also talk to people who know you well to find out if your mood and behavior have had major changes.

Which Medicines Treat It?

There are several types of prescription drugs for bipolar disorder. They include mood stabilizers that prevent episodes of ups and downs, as well as antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs. When they aren’t in a manic or depressive phase, people usually take maintenance medications to avoid a relapse.

Talk Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Counseling can help people stay on medication and manage their lives. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that accompany mood swings. Interpersonal therapy aims to ease the strain bipolar disorder puts on personal relationships. Social rhythm therapy helps people develop and maintain daily routines.

What You Can Do

Everyday habits can’t cure bipolar disorder. But it helps to make sure you get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and exercise. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, since they can make symptoms worse. If you have bipolar disorder, you should learn what your “red flags” are -- signs that the condition is active -- and have a plan for what to do if that happens, so you get help ASAP.

Let People In

If you have bipolar disorder, you may want to consider telling the people you are closest to, like your partner or your immediate family, so they can help you manage the condition. Try to explain how it affects you and what you need. With their support, you may feel more connected and motivated to stick with your treatment plan.

Concerned About Someone?

Many people with bipolar disorder don't realize they have a problem or avoid getting help. If you think a friend or family member may have it, you may want to encourage them to talk with a doctor or mental health expert who can look into what’s going on and start them toward treatment. Be sensitive to their feelings, and remember that it takes an expert to diagnose it. But if it is bipolar disorder, or another mental illness, treatment can help.


Creator & Founder

The Shackz

083 651 3729

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