Understanding the Difference Between Bipolar and Depression

While there has been an increasing amount of awareness and diagnosis of mental health conditions, many people are still learning about mental illnesses. Bipolar disorder and depression are two of the most prevalent mental illnesses, with millions of people struggling with these conditions in the United States today. 

While bipolar disorder and depression are distinct conditions, some of the similarities between the two illnesses can cause confusion. Here, we’ll discuss these conditions and how they differ. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that’s characterized by severe mood swings. These mood swings involve mania (emotional highs) and extreme depression. So, while bipolar disorder involves periods of depression, it’s a separate condition. 

Mania can include feelings of euphoria, high energy levels, and extreme irritability, while depression can include feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and lost interest in activities. Some people with bipolar disorder rarely experience mood swing episodes, while others get them several times per year. Mood swings can impact one’s ability to work, sleep, think clearly, and manage relationships. 

There’s no cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be managed with a treatment plan typically consisting of psychotherapy and prescription medications. 

Depression

Also referred to as major depressive disorder, depression is a mental health condition involving a consistently low mood with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and restlessness. People with depression also often lose interest in previously enjoyable activities. Trouble sleeping, concentrating, and maintaining a healthy appetite are common in cases of depression.

People who are diagnosed by a doctor with major depressive disorder won’t have any history of a manic episode; this is the key difference between the two disorders. 

If you or someone you love exhibits symptoms of bipolar disorder or depression, visiting a medical professional for a diagnosis is the first step toward receiving treatment. 

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