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What is the difference between bipolar depression and depression?

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When you hear people talk about being diagnosed with or treated for depression, they are often referring to unipolar depression. There are important differences between unipolar depression and bipolar depression – differences in how the illness makes people feel and behave, and differences in how they are supported through treatment. In addition to going through low moods or depression, individuals with bipolar disorder also have high moods known as mania during which they may experience increased energy, feelings of euphoria, insomnia (inability to sleep) or impulsive behaviors like shopping sprees or promiscuous sex. Someone with unipolar depression doesn’t go through the “highs” of bipolar depression. Below is a closer look at the symptoms of both depression and mania. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to visit your counseling center or a mental health professional to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Depression:

We all get sad from time to time, but if you, or someone you know, is experiencing changes in behaviors like the ones listed below, it’s important to reach out for help before things get worse.
• Extreme sadness or depressed mood
• Lack of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
• Apathy and low energy levels
• Difficulty focusing
• Loneliness or withdrawing from friends and family
• Feelings of helplessness and guilt
• Not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time
• Suicidal thoughts and feelings

Symptoms of Mania:

When people are in a manic state, they often seem very happy, confident, energetic and productive. If you or someone you know is suddenly feeling or doing some of the things listed below, it’s important not to ignore those symptoms. It’s common for people who are manic to deny anything is wrong.
• Excessively “high,” euphoric mood
• Extreme irritability
• Decreased need for sleep without feeling tired
• Racing thoughts or fast speech
• Difficulty focusing or concentrating
• Agitation
• Impulsive behaviors like spending sprees
• Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
• Increased sexual drive
• Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
• Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, because it looks so similar to depression when someone’s in a low phase. Also, a person can experience depressive episodes for several years without experiencing mania or hypomania, a less severe form of mania. That’s why it’s especially important to tell your counselor about all the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, even if they seem to make you feel good, so they can make the right diagnosis and give you the most effective treatment.

If you think you are experiencing the symptoms of unipolar or bipolar depression, you can take our confidential Self Evaluator and make an appointment to see a counselor or doctor.