What Are the Differences Between Depression and Bipolar Disorder?

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Depression (also known as major depressive disorder) and bipolar disorder are mental health conditions that interfere with people’s daily life. They can be easily confused with another because they share some similar symptoms. A typical question asked by patients is: What are the differences between depression and bipolar disorder?


Well, they do have some critical differences. Moreover, it is important to distinguish between depression and bipolar disorder because their treatments are diverse.


First of all, a quick review of their symptoms will help us better understand their differences.



What is depression?


Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. These symptoms include:





Lack of energy

Physical pains such as back pain and headaches

Lost interests in many things

Appetite and weight changing



What is bipolar disorder?


Bipolar disorder is a serious mental condition that involves extreme mood swings. It includes emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Therefore, people with bipolar disorder tend to alternate between mania and depression and experience cycles of symptoms. It is possible to have symptoms of mania and depression at the same time.


Types of bipolar disorder


Understanding the types of bipolar disorder can further help distinguish between bipolar disorder and depression. There are two major types of bipolar disorder.



Bipolar I disorder. It is diagnosed when patients had at least one manic episode lasting at least 7 days. Depressive episodes occur as well, usually lasting at least 2 weeks. In some cases, mania may trigger psychosis.


Bipolar II disorder. It is diagnosed when patients had at least one depressive episode and at least one hypomania. Patients tend to experience longer depressive episodes and shorter hypomanic episodes.


Differences between depression and bipolar disorder


The following symptoms are more common in bipolar depression than depression: mania, psychosis, excessive sleeping, and intense anxiety.



The underlying difference is that people with depression do not experience manic or hypomanic episodes. Severe mania can cause delusions and hallucinations. Patients usually need hospitalization during this period. Typical symptoms of mania and hypomania include:


Restlessness or high energy

Grandiose or unrealistic ideas

Irritability and aggressiveness

Alcohol or drug abuse

High sex drives


Secondly, bipolar disorder patients who have depressive episodes may experience excessive sleeping and more daytime fatigue. They will also experience an increased appetite and weight gain. Inversely, patients with depression are more commonly waking up late in the night or early in the morning.



Thirdly, patients with bipolar disorder are more likely to be accompanied by intense anxiety. One-half to two-thirds of patients with bipolar depression have a simultaneous anxiety disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder.


Understanding the differences is necessary. Depression and bipolar disorder are two different mental conditions that require different treatments. For example, some antidepressants cannot be used for treating bipolar disorder. They may trigger a manic episode and make bipolar disorder worse.

1 Answer

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I am knew to the understanding of my diagnosis and only just becoming to understand the far reaching problems with my diagnosis. I am looking for some one to talk with as I can not afford counseling. My doctor said reaching out for help is helping me. I also have P.T.S.D. coming here is hard for me to do please help me find someone with who I can reach out to. I live in Georgia.
God has your answer. Reach out to him and ask him to guide you the help you need. The Bible says that those who seek him with all their heart will find him, and with him are riches forevermore. Be encouraged by reading the word of God!
Anonymous- sorry to break it to you but that's NOT always the answer or no one would ever have medical issues and shame on you for implying it's "easily" remedied with a bible.....

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