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What is Bi-Polar Depression?

Update Date: Jul 28, 2021 08:50 PM EDT
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What is Bi-Polar Depression?
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A lot of people search for information on bi-polar depression but they are often looking for information on bi-polar disorder, which depression is a symptom of. 

Confused? Let's break it down. 

What is depression?

Depression is a broad term and a complex condition to diagnose and treat. 

You will hear a lot of people refer to depression more specifically as "Clinical Depression" which means the condition has been diagnosed by a healthcare practitioner. 

If you've experienced depression you may have suffered from some of the following symptoms:

  • A persistent low mood
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of appetite
  • Irritability

Sound familiar? You're not alone. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that around 7% of the entire US population suffer from at least one depressive episode a year. 

Depression by itself can be debilitating, but it also can be a symptom of bi-polar disorder. 

Understanding bi-polar disorder

Bi-polar disorder (often mistakenly called bi-polar depression) is a debilitating condition that around 1% of the US population suffers from. 

If you have bi-polar disorder you will most likely find yourself moving between different "episodes" which are categorized like this:

  • Depressive episodes
  • Manic episodes
  • Hypomanic episodes

You may also experience symptom free/normal episodes (this is also known as euthymia) 

The type and severity of your bi-polar disorder (there are two types - more on that later) will determine how long your depressive episodes and manic/hypomanic episodes last for. Let's look at both of these in turn. 

Depressive episodes

In a depressive episode you are likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia (can't sleep) or hypersomnia (very sleepy during the day)
  • Unexplained or uncontrollable crying
  • Severe fatigue (tiredness)
  • Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Manic/Hypomanic episodes

A manic episode will usually last for up to 7 days. During that time you might experience the following symptoms: 

  • Feelings of euphoria (intense happiness)
  • Less need for sleep (feeling overly stimulated)
  • Increased feelings of sexual desire
  • Hallucinations (seeing things) or delusions (believing things not based in reality)
  • Huge amounts of energy

People in a manic episode will engage in risky and/or outlandish behavior that puts them and other people at risk. Manic episodes are a feature of Type 1 bi-polar disorder. 

A hypomanic episode is a state where you may experience the symptoms above but in a far milder way so that your state of mind is not necessarily hugely impaired. This is a feature of Type 2 bi-polar disorder. 

Type 1 and type 2 bi-polar disorder

You can summarize Type 1 and Type 2 bi-polar disorder like this: 

  • Both types of BPD feature depressive episodes
  • Type 1 BPD sufferers have more serious manic episodes
  • Type 2 BPD sufferers tend to have less serious hypomanic episodes

Both types are treatable using medication and therapy. We know a lot about bi-polar disorder so don't be afraid of the condition. Many people lead normal lives by using available treatments. 

Another development in helping people with bipolar depression is to use peer counseling. Peer counselors are people who have been diagnosed with BPD and are actively managing their condition. They are supported by licensed therapists on platforms such as Peer Collective

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms we've talked about above please consult with your healthcare practitioner immediately and get support. 

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