The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and Depression

Mental health issues can be difficult for the people who suffer from them as well as for the people around them. It’s even more challenging when there’s a misdiagnosis – and two of the most commonly misdiagnosed mood disorders are bipolar disorder and depression.

Although these two conditions have similar symptoms, these are different illnesses with subtle variances. Being aware of these differences and spotting them can help you or someone you know get the treatment you deserve.

When Bipolar Disorder Is Misdiagnosed as Depression

Many people with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed as having depression, even by seasoned professionals. This is because clients don’t always display or explain the symptoms during their appointments.

The confusion is likely due to the fact that bipolar disorder contains periods of depression, with low moods, loss of interest in activities, and lessened interest in interacting with others. But bipolar disorder also includes periods of mania, such as expressing great excitement, euphoria, or overactivity.

If someone recognizes only the depressed phase of bipolar disorder because they assume the mania is the norm, they may assume they are just suffering from depression. Likewise, the treating physician may not observe or hear about the mania.

Differences Between Depression and Bipolar Disorder

It’s important to determine whether an individual has one disorder or the other, because they have different treatments. There are four distinguishable yet understated distinctions between bipolar disorder and depression.

1) “Feeling Better” vs. Manic Phase

The “ups” of bipolar disorder can sometimes be mistaken for a sense of improvement in an individual’s psychological state. Mild mania phases can look like the person is being productive and jovial.

2) How Long “Lows” Last

Depressive states, or feeling very low or down, are an element of both depression and bipolar disorder. The lows are much more continuous in someone with depression, whereas someone with bipolar disorder can be invariably depressed moods. It’s important to have a psychiatrist with years of experience to develop an accurate diagnosis either way.

3) Range of Emotions

Bipolar disorder phases exhibit two sides of emotion, ranging from mild to severe. “Bad days” can be serious, whereby the person feels unable to get out of bed and has thoughts of self-harm. These phases can last so long that the person is misdiagnosed with depression.

4) Effects of Medication

Antidepressants are prescribed to those with depression, and the medicine will improve their state if they indeed have depression. However, if someone is bipolar and is taking antidepressants, it could cause them to become manic.

Aggravating or instigating a manic phase with medication is not considered an improvement for someone with bipolar disorder. This is why it is so important to get a correct diagnosis and the correct medication and therapy.

Skilled Psychologist in Southbury, CT

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or bipolar disorder, contact Psy-Visions. We offer comprehensive, responsive care tailored to your individual needs.

Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Stracks provides customized treatment that addresses the underlying physical and emotional issues causing your symptoms. Call us today at (203) 405-1745 or fill out our convenient online form to request a consultation with Dr. Stracks. We look forward to helping you feel like yourself again

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