Bipolar v/s Depression: How To Tell Them Apart?

Last Update on July 28, 2022 : Published on July 28, 2022

Both bipolar disorder and depression are mood disorders and involve a lot of similar symptoms but they clearly are two different psychological conditions. The main difference between bipolar and depression is that in bipolar one can swing from a depressed phase to a manic phase whereas in depression one remains in the depressive phase until treatment.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder involving massive mood swings. Bipolar has two extreme ends, depression and mania, and like a pendulum, one can experience a depressive episode and can also swing to the other side and experience a manic episode.

The reason why people get confused between these two conditions is because of the depressive episodes that happen in bipolar disorder. Depression is a condition that consists of extreme sadness, inactivity, and loss of interest. The depressive episode of bipolar disorder also looks the same.

Want to know how to differentiate between bipolar disorder and depression? Here’s all you need to know about bipolar vs depression…

Bipolar vs Depression: Definition

Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is a psychological condition that is associated with major mood swings ranging from a manic high to a depressive low. Let me tell you, in bipolar disorder, the emotions are always on the extreme ends, there is no in-between. You can either be experiencing a depressive episode or a manic episode and in some rare cases, you can experience both in a cyclic pattern.

Depression: Depression is a psychological condition that can be characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, there is lack of energy, a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, and you basically feel so melancholic that you completely shut yourself out.

Now the depressive episode in bipolar disorder is what creates all the confusion. Want to know what you need to look for when you notice depressive symptoms in someone? If you are experiencing symptoms of depression but also experience a high in your mood every now and then, it probably is a bipolar disorder. In case of depression, you will not experience any kind of high whatsoever.

Bipolar vs Depression: Signs & Symptoms

To understand the difference between bipolar and depression better you must know the difference in the signs and symptoms of both depression and bipolar disorder. Let’s have a look at the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder separately so that you can see the difference for yourself;

Signs & Symptoms of Depression

  • Sleep-related issues
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of Agitation and frustration
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Loss of energy
  • Extreme sadness
  • Nothing excites then anymore
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Indecisiveness
  • Thoughts about death

Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

  • Disturbed sleep and appetite
  • Heightened self-esteem
  • Grandiosity
  • An increased urge to talk more than usual
  • Easily distracted
  • Racing thoughts
  • Extreme sadness or extreme happiness (mood swings)
  • Exhibit an increased need to achieve every goal of theirs
  • Engage in risky behaviors

Now is the difference between depression and bipolar disorder clear? They both might look similar at face value but are very different from each other. The depressive phase of bipolar disorder and depression have a lot in common but the signs of both bipolar and depression are going to be different.

Bipolar vs Depression: Treatment

Depression is usually treated with some drugs like antidepressants accompanied by psychotherapy. It completely depends on the person and how they are responding to their treatment.  They can either be only on psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, or they can just be on antidepressants as well or have a combination of both.

Whereas in bipolar disorder your doctor will prescribe you a mood stabilizer because it has been noted that antidepressants don’t work for bipolar because it worsens mania. You can also be prescribed antipsychotics to calm your symptoms of mania down. Other than drugs you can go into therapy just like depression because therapy alongside medication can speed up the recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is there a link between bipolar disorder and depression?

Even though both bipolar disorder and depression are mood disorders, there is no link between the two. Bipolar disorder is also called manic depression only because it has two sides (mania & depression) which means you can experience depressive symptoms and manic symptoms but in the case of depression there is no mania involved.

2. Can someone’s bipolar turn into depression and vice versa?

Well, the possibility of someone with one mental health condition turning into another is fairly thin but people with depression might/might not experience mania later in life. There are so many people who have been wrongly diagnosed with depression when they have bipolar only because of the similarity of both these disorders at face value.

3. Which is more dangerous?

Both bipolar disorder and depression are serious mental health conditions. They both need an equal amount of attention and treatment because they directly affect how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Both bipolar and depression can be dangerous if proper treatment is not provided on time.

That’s All folks!

I hope you found this blog about the difference between bipolar disorder and depression helpful and interesting. Do share this blog with your friends and family so that no one gets confused between manic depression (bipolar disorder) and depression.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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