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Bipolar Disorder or Depression?

Bipolar vs Depression: Symptoms and Treatment
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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Depression and bipolar disorder are two of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Many people who have these conditions experience symptoms that can be confused with each other because they are similar, such as:

  • Low energy
  • Lack of motivation to do anything
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, etc.

Experiencing such symptoms may leave you asking yourself, am I bipolar or depressed? And although only a doctor can make a correct diagnosis, you can learn more about the difference between the two from this article.

Do you have disturbing mental symptoms? Get professional help at MEDvidi.

Bipolar Vs. Depression

Despite the similarities, both conditions have some unique differences. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression, your doctor would tell you about the difference between the two. This can help you better understand your symptoms and how to manage them, be calm about the effectiveness of your treatment, and avoid common mistakes.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and behavior. The illness was estimated to affect about 0.6 percent [1*] of the population worldwide, which results in 46 million people.

Bipolar disorder involves periods of extreme elation (or mania) followed by periods of deep depression—also known as a depressive episode. Episodes of mania (severe) or hypomania (moderate) may last several days to weeks and can include agitation, irritability, insomnia, and excessive energy or activity levels. Depressive episodes, on the other hand, come with a loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep and appetite, despair, fatigue, and thoughts of death and suicide.

Manic Depression Vs. Bipolar: Are They Similar?

These terms might seem different, but both names refer to the same illness. Manic depression was a term used formerly to refer to bipolar disorder. This brought confusion between depression and manic depression, and that is when the manic depression got a new term, i.e., bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis, Signs, and Symptoms

There is no specific diagnostic test for bipolar disorder, but your doctor can use physical examinations and blood tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are more likely to begin during the teenage years. Sometimes people confuse bipolar symptoms with borderline personality disorder(BPD) [2*] . So, let’s learn more about bipolar symptoms:

  • Extreme mood swings. You may experience irritability and anxiety one day, followed by extreme depression. Mood swings can be so severe that they interfere with your ability to function at work. This could be a sign of Bipolar disorder.
  • Distinct periods of depression and mania. Depressed moods and manic moods often alternate over time. This is called “ultra-rapid” cycling, one of this disorder’s hallmarks.
  • Sleep disturbance. Sleep problems are common in people with bipolar disorder, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restless sleep, early morning awakening, and daytime sleepiness during periods of normal alertness.
  • Spending too much money on mood-altering activities such as drugs or alcohol during manic episodes may lead to financial problems and the emotional turmoil caused by their illness.

Only a doctor can make the right and legit diagnosis, according to one’s symptoms, their mix, severity, and impact on one’s life.

Types of Bipolar

There are three main types of Bipolar Disorder:

  • Bipolar 1
  • Bipolar 2
  • Cyclothymic disorder

Bipolar 1 is a more common type than bipolar 2 because it occurs more frequently in people with one episode of psychosis. This happens when someone loses touch with reality for a short period due to hallucinations or delusions.

Bipolar 2 is quite similar to bipolar 1, except that the severity of psychotic symptoms in type 2 is less compared to type 1. These less intense maniac symptoms are known as hypomania. Cyclothymia is the third type of bipolar disorder where the psychotic episodes are even less severe to be classified as bipolar 1 or 2.

Difference between bipolar and depression

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Treatment for bipolar disorder involves medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. The goal is to stabilize mood, reduce the risk of suicide, and prevent relapses.

Medication: Antipsychotic medications, such as lithium [3*] , can be used to treat mania and can help stabilize moods during depressive episodes. They may also help prevent manic episodes from occurring if taken in advance.

Psychotherapy: Many types of talk therapy are used to treat bipolar disorder. One of them is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Other approaches, such as interpersonal therapy (IPT) and psychoeducation, focus on helping a person understand their illness better so they can follow their treatment strategy more consciously.

Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes may also be necessary for people with bipolar disorder because they can help improve overall health and wellbeing. Usually, these are activities focused on improving sleep quality, reducing stress levels, and managing diet so that food cravings don’t become too strong.

Get the best online depression treatment at MEDvidi adjusted to your needs and specific symptoms.


Depression is also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It is a mood disorder described as feeling sad, anxious, or hopeless. Depression is the most common mental health problem in the United States: the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that about 21 million [4*] adults in the U.S. experienced some form of depression in 2020.

Symptoms of Depression

When you’re depressed, you may have problems with your sleep and eating habits, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, diminished ability to concentrate or make decisions, and recurrent thoughts, including those about death or suicide. You may also feel irritable and restless.

Types of Depression

  • Dysthymia (a lower-level chronic form of depression). This is also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Postpartum depression
  • Psychotic depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Depression Diagnosis

If you experience any of the symptoms listed, you will need to visit a clinic offline or online where the doctor will help to diagnose the illness. A lab blood test, physical exam, and psychiatric examination can be used to determine the cause of your symptoms and identify your condition.

Besides, your doctor may use specifiers to determine the type of depression you are suffering from. These are features that will help distinguish the different types:

  • Melancholic features
  • Atypical features
  • Mixed features
  • Seasonal pattern
  • Peripartum onset
  • Catatonia
  • Psychotic features
  • Anxious distress

Depression Treatment

If you have a major depressive disorder, you may be prescribed antidepressants alone. This treatment is usually reserved for people with moderate to severe depression symptoms.

Besides, you may also need to undergo regular psychotherapy sessions to improve your condition. Most doctors recommend CBT as the most efficient type of psychotherapy.

Depression Vs. Bipolar

The fact that bipolar is or isn’t a type of depression can be confusing to many. Thus, you should understand the difference between depression and bipolar depression. Depressive symptoms are an important aspect of bipolar disorder; however, the presence of maniac symptoms makes it a distinct mental health problem and a separate diagnosis from depression with its own unique types, symptoms, and treatments.

It is important to understand the similarities and the differences between bipolar and depression so that you could better explain your symptoms to the therapist and get proper treatment.


If you feel like you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, you should seek professional help from a psychiatrist who can diagnose your condition correctly. In many cases, treatment for both depression and bipolar disorder can be effective if you start early enough. At MEDvidi, you can get professional help: a diagnosis from a professional and a personalized treatment plan.


4 sources
  1. Mental Health
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  2. Borderline Personality Disorder
    Source link
  3. Lithium Treatment Over the Lifespan in Bipolar Disorders. (2020)
    Source link
  4. Major Depression
    Source link
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.