Patients who have bipolar disorder and those who suffer from depression are experiencing two very distinct illnesses that require their own unique treatment. However, the two disorders share many similar symptoms that can make it tough for psychiatrists to identify which problem their patient is facing. This can be a risky problem as medications that are used to ease depression can make bipolar patient’s symptoms worse by triggering manic episodes.
It is crucial for patients to receive the correct diagnosis so that they can be properly treated and given the chance to effectively reduce their symptoms. If psychiatrists are able to determine that their patient has bipolar disorder they can provide them with the means to stabilize their depression symptoms as well as their manic episodes.
Depressive Period in Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of depression can often look very similar to what a person with bipolar disorder goes through in their depressive phase. The main difference between the two disorders is that at certain points a patient who is bipolar will have symptoms of mania in which they have high energy and become impulsive.
Unfortunately, many people may be unaware that they are dealing with bipolar disorder because they only seek treatment when they are experiencing symptoms of depression. If their mania symptoms are not causing too many negative consequences they might not be aware that they are a part of their disorder. When patients don’t mention their mania symptoms, psychiatrists may mistakenly diagnose someone with depression when they are really dealing with bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of clinical depression and the lows of bipolar disorder usually involve a loss of energy, prolonged feelings of sadness, restlessness, inability to concentrate or make decisions, less participation in activities they once enjoyed, and in some cases thoughts about or attempts at suicide. A bipolar person can experience a depressive period for weeks or even months and for a person with clinical depression these symptoms are recurring or even chronic for them.
Mood Swings and Mania Symptoms
The defining characteristic of bipolar disorder is the period of mania that tends to alternate with the extreme lows of depression. Many people are not familiar with the symptoms of mania and so are not able to identify them within themselves. Symptoms can include an extremely elated or happy mood, increased physical energy and mental activity, racing thoughts, faster speech and increased talking, ambitious and often grandiose plans, impulsive activities that can cause problems such as spending sprees and risk taking, and a lack of sleep without feeling fatigued.
These manic symptoms tend to follow a period of depression and can sometimes be a shorter span of time such as three months of depression followed by one month of mania. The length of bipolar moods varies for each patient with some experience more rapid cycles of the disorder. If you find that you are experiencing any symptoms that appear similar to mania following a period of depression then you could be dealing with bipolar disorder.
There are some factors which can help to further identify when someone has bipolar disorder rather than clinical depression. If you have a first-degree relative who has bipolar disorder, had your first major depressive episode before age 25, you tend to oversleep and overeat when you are depressed, you lose contact with reality at times, your antidepressants stopped working or you have tried a few medications without any results.
People with bipolar disorder will have trouble treating their depression periods with the type of medication used for clinical depression. Once you are able to identify yourself as bipolar your psychiatrist can provide you with more effective medication and counseling that will help to alleviate some of your symptoms.