depression is often misunderstood and many people don’t recognize
the warning signs and get the help they need. In this article,
let's explore what bipolar depression is, its relationship to bipolar
disorder, and treatment options for bipolar disorder.
What Is Bipolar Depression?
Bipolar depression is the name given to the depression experienced in those who have bipolar disorder.
So that begs the question, what is bipolar disorder?
disorder is a mood disorder that was previously referred to as
and is characterized by exaggerated mood swings - people go back
and forth between periods of a very good or irritable mood and
Bipolar means two poles or extremes, and if you have bipolar disorder you are likely to have extreme mood swings.
mood swings involves both periods of feeling low (depressive
episode - this is the bipolar depression part of the bipolar disorder)
- and high (manic episode). The mood swings
are unrelated to what is happening in your life.
A person with bipolar disorder will have symptoms of both depression (bipolar depression) and mania at different times.
early sign of bipolar depression is hypomania - this is a state where
the person shows a high level of energy, excessive moodiness, and
impulsive or reckless behavior.
Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally and it usually starts between the ages of 15 to 25 years.
Okay, let's have a closer look at each of these mood swings.
Depressive Episode (bipolar depression)
depressive episode is when you have either a depressed mood or the loss
of interest or pleasure in most activities, lasting for at least 2
The symptoms of a depressive episode include:
Persistent sad or anxious mood.
Loss of interest in day-to-day life.
Feeling guilty or worthless.
Loss of pleasure in usual activities.
Feeling unusually tired and exhausted.
Having difficulty concentrating.
Loss of or increase in appetite.
Manic Episode (mania)
A manic episode is a when you have a constant and unusual elevated or bad-tempered mood, that lasts for at least 1 week.
The symptoms of a manic episode include:
Unrealistic (or grandiose) plans and beliefs.
Excessive "high" or euphoric feelings.
Faster thinking and speaking patterns.
Sustained periods of unusual behavior with significant risk-taking.
Increased sex drive.
Lack of inhibitions & poor judgment.
There are 2 main types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar Type I & Bipolar Type II.
Bipolar Disorder Type I
with bipolar disorder type I have had at least one manic episode and
periods of major depression. Psychotic symptoms are also present.
These psychotic symptoms include:
- Having beliefs that are not based on reality (delusions).
- Feeling everyone is against you (paranoia).
- Seeing or hearing things or people that are not there (hallucinations).
Bipolar Disorder Type II
with bipolar disorder type II have never had full mania. Instead
they experience periods of high energy levels and impulsiveness that
are not as extreme as mania. These periods alternate with
episodes of depression.
With this bipolar type, you do not have psychotic symptoms.
addition to the above 2 types of bipolar, some people with
bipolar have what are called "mixed episodes." This
is where you feel some of the signs and symptoms of both
depression and mania.
Many people with bipolar disorder can go undiagnosed for years. Why?
are more likely to go see a doctor when they are depressed and so many
people are misdiagnosed and are told they suffer from depression.
So what happens is that they are treated for depression rather
than bipolar disorder.
Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
disorder is a treatable and manageable mental illness.
Treatment for bipolar disorder often includes a combination of
medications to manage the symptoms, plus psychological therapies to
help in dealing with the illness and living a full and meaningful life.
People with bipolar disorder can obtain substantial stabilization of their mood swings.
disorder has two distinct conditions to treat - mania and
depression - and that is why treatment usually involves more than one
The most common medications used to treat bipolar disorder are:
Lithium is usually very effective in controlling mania and
preventing the recurrence of both manic and depressive episodes.
therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and
interpersonal therapy (IPT) have shown results that are greater
than when the person receives medication alone.
is a program which recognises that the way people think affects the way
they feel. A large part of CBT focuses on a person's behaviour
and then develops strategies to deal with these challenges.
- IPT aims to understand how social factors such as work and relationships are operating in a person's life.
with bipolar disorder need ongoing treatment to keep their mood
stable - even when the person is feeling better. It may take
some time to discover the best treatment for an individual, but it is
time well spent!
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