Understanding Depression and Bipolar Disorder

By Gina C. | Updated: Jun 18, 2020


Depression and bipolar disorder, while treatable, can be extremely difficult conditions to live with. However, they are in fact two very distinct conditions with their own sets of causes and behavioral traits. These conditions can negatively impact your personal and professional relationships. Read on to find out more about how to identify bipolar disorder and depression symptoms.

Understanding Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic depression, is a psychological disorder that largely affects one's behavior. The sufferer will have periods of feeling exceptionally high and full of energy, called mania, followed by periods of feeling extremely low and depressed. These emotions become out of control during a manic episode and can lead to a hyperactive sex drive, substance abuse, and psychosis - a distorted understanding of reality.

Every year, the disease affects around 2.6% of the U.S. adult population, and there is often a higher chance of developing the condition if a close family member already has it, which gives credence to the theory that it has a genetic component.

The condition can make one oscillate between calm and extreme emotions. However, the difference between the two conditions is that bipolar disorder has the manic periods, the symptoms of which are:

  • Feeling unusually “high” and optimistic
  • Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about oneself
  • Not needing much sleep to function
  • Feeling extremely energetic
  • Rapid talking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Extreme impulsiveness
  • Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences


Depression is different from bipolar disorder in that depressive episodes are more constant. Depression lacks the happy phases typical of bipolar disorder. Instead, the sufferer feels a chronic sense of sadness that does not naturally dissipate with time.

Usual symptoms of depression are ongoing sadness, restlessness, antisocial behavior, fatigue, hopelessness, and unhealthy eating patterns. The disorder usually lasts for more than two weeks.

There are many symptoms of depression, and these include physiological as well as psychological ones. A few of the most common symptoms are:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Self-loathing
  • Concentration problems
  • Unexplained aches and pains

While physical activity and good nutrition can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder, they are best complemented by care from a therapist or psychiatrist to treat the root cause. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on depression in the long term in order to determine whether or not signs of bipolar disorder also occur. If you are having thoughts about harming yourself or others, it is important to seek immediate help from a medical professional.

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