How is Bipolar Disorder Different than Depression?
Bipolar disorder shares several features in common with Major Depressive Disorder, but there are important distinctions. Both conditions relate to mood regulation and can include episodes in which one can feel significantly sad, down, and depressed for longer than what would be typical. Suicidal thoughts, feelings, and actions can be present in both disorders. Despite this, bipolar disorder is in a diagnostic category which is separate from depressive disorders. Individuals with a form of bipolar disorder can have times when they don’t just feel a relief from depression, but when they can felt very much the opposite of depressed. They can feel euphoric or elated and can expend a significant amount of energy. In some individuals, this feeling can present as a persistent period of irritability in which it is difficult to stop moving, thinking, and talking.
Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Thought Patterns
Depressive episodes can be associated with certain thinking patterns that amplify discouragement and hopelessness. While it can be common to experience some vacillation in these thinking patterns as one steps in and out of depressive episodes, the thought pattern changes in bipolar disorder can be much more pronounced. For instance, individuals with bipolar disorder can have a much broader range of thoughts about their own abilities; they may doubt their abilities when feeling depressed, but may be overly confident in what they could achieve during periods of euphoria. In this way, the personal perception of their abilities is very much mood dependent.
Low Activity Versus High Activity
As most forms of bipolar disorder include full depressive episodes, both bipolar disorder and Major Depressive Disorder are associated with times when activity level is very low. An individual in the middle of a low activity period may exhibit a lack of energy, decreased interest in activities, slower physical movement, and concentration problems. Over-sleeping (or “hypersomnia”) may also be associated with these periods. If these periods resolve in Major Depressive Disorder, one can return to a “baseline” level of activity until another depressive episode hits. In bipolar disorders, however, periods of a low activity level and baseline periods can be punctuated by periods of high activity level. During high activity level times, sleep can be less needed and the individual can often think faster, talk faster, and spend their time in goal-driven behavior.
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