Is Bipolar Depression It’s Own Separate Beast?

What is bipolar depression? Is it the same as a Major Depressive Disorder? The answer is no, but the difference is subtle.

When one has Bipolar Disorder, primarily depressed, one can be sad the majority of the time or have numerous episodes of sadness, but somewhere in there, there has to be at least one manic episode. A ‘what episode’ you ask?

A manic episode is defined as a discreet period of time where mood is unusually high, sleep is not particularly necessary (a person often can be up for days without feeling tired,) numerous projects often are initiated, an individual has a sense that he can do just about anything better than anyone else, and recklessness is rampant. While recklessness has different forms, driving recklessly, doing drugs, and indiscriminate sex are common.

Some people with Bipolar Disorder, mainly depressed, can experience their manic episodes differently from what is described above. These people may have the intense energy of mania, but instead of being upbeat, they may be depressed and irritable. In short, these people come across as being incredibly short-fused and nasty.


Why does it matter if you have Bipolar Disorder, Dysthymia (low level depression) or Major Depressive Disorder?

The answer lies in the treatment.

Antidepressants are used to treat depression. But for those of you with an underlying Bipolar Disorder, antidepressants can send you into a mania. Does this mean that antidepressants cannot be used for those with Bipolar Disorder? The answer to this is no. However, it is important that people with Bipolar Disorder first have their moods stabilized with a mood stabilizer before being treated with an antidepressant.

So how is this all accomplished?

The key here is to work with a psychiatrist. By asking you lots of questions and exploring your family tree, a psychiatrist will have a pretty good sense of whether you may have an underlying Bipolar Disorder. If the psychiatrist believes this is the case, he or she will err on the side of caution before treating your depression and first stabilize your moods. Some mood stabilizers are known to be particularly good at targeting depression. After you are on a mood stabilizer, your psychiatrist will then add an antidepressant to treat your depression.

Providing information about your family tree and all your symptoms is important. Do the best you can to gather as much information as possible to present to your psychiatrist.