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How is Bipolar disorder and depression different? – Know all about its Symptoms and causes

The mental health crisis created by mass-scale disemployment and loss of income, financial distress, isolation, loss of liberty, fear of infection and death and concern regarding social 60 isolation, etc., has further strengthened the grip of anxiety, depression, stress on people’s well being in India.

Picture Credits: Pharmasite Research, Inc.

The lockdown has caused unprecedented changes in people’s lives. According to the ‘Rebooting 2020: A Story of COVID-19, and Shifting Perceptions’ survey by Mavericks India, sixty-one per cent of Indians are experiencing mental-health-related issues during this lockdown. This situation is not being given the attention and intervention it demands.

A UN brief published by the UN describes how many people who were previously coping well are now finding it hard to deal with distresses due to multiple stress factors that have emerged in the pandemic and the political response. Bipolar disorder and depression are two different mental health issues but have many similarities. Let us study them.

Also check out: Bipolar Disorder in women- All you need to know!

What is depression?

Depression is basically a mood disorder. It may be described as a constant feeling of sadness, frustration, anger, or loss that hampers a person’s daily life. But if you were just sad for some time due to some particular reason, then you are not depressed.

Depression is very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, an estimated 8.1 per cent of American adults ages 20 and above had depression in any given 2-week period from 2013 to 2016. Depression affects a patient’s life in different ways. Sometimes it may hamper your work-life, relationships, emotional well-being, etc. It may affect your working skills and result in a loss of time. A person suffering from any chronic disease can face more difficulty with depression. Depression can worsen the situation of a chronic disease patient. Chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity can be negatively affected by depression.

It’s very important to understand the difference between normal sadness and depression. We all have such encounters in life that make us feel sad and that doesn’t mean we are suffering from depression. It’s a part of normal life. But if you feel this constant feeling of being numb, sad, hopeless on regular basis, then maybe you are clinically depressed. Depression is said to be a serious medical condition that can worsen if not treated.

Also check out: How to identify Bipolar disorder in Children? Symptoms and Causes

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is called manic depression, which causes extreme mood swings. This includes a high level of emotion (mania or hypomania) and a low level (depression).

When you have depression, you feel hopeless or depressed and lose interest in most activities. On the other hand, when the mood shifts in the other direction, then you can feel full of celebration and energy. Mood changes can happen only a few times a year or even several times a week. Mood swings are more severe, debilitating, and disabling in people with bipolar disorder than are experienced by the general population. Some people may also have hallucinations (nightmares, etc.) and other symptoms.

With treatment, some people with this condition can work or study well and lead a capable life. However, some people stop or stop taking medicines when they feel better.

According to some studies, creativity may increase in some people with bipolar disorder. However, mood swings can make it difficult for them to focus on a project or follow through on a project. As a result of this, individuals start many projects or works but are not able to finish them. Although bipolar disorder is a harmful and long-term condition, you can prevent mood swings by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is controlled with the help of medications and psychological counselling.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a constant feeling of being sad. Depression affects you differently in different stages. At some stages it can affect your mood, at others it can affect your body. Symptoms might be constant or may come and go. The Symptoms of depression may vary from Men to women to children.

Also check out: Signs that your loved one is depressed

Symptoms of depression in men
  • mood- anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness
  • emotional well-being- feeling empty, sad, hopeless
  • behavior-  loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, engaging in high-risk activities
  • sexual interest- reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance
  • cognitive abilities-  inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations
  • sleep patterns- insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, not sleeping through the night
  • physical well-being-  fatigue, pains, headache, digestive problems
Symptoms of Depression in women.
  • mood –  irritability
  • emotional well-being-  feeling sad or empty, anxious or hopeless
  • behavior-  loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from social engagements, thoughts of suicide
  • cognitive abilities-thinking or talking more slowly
  • sleep patterns- difficulty sleeping through the night, waking early, sleeping too much
  • physical well-being- decreased energy, greater fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, aches, pain, headaches, increased cramps.
Symptoms of depression in children
  • mood – irritability, anger, mood swings, crying
  • emotional well-being- feelings of incompetence (e.g. “I can’t do anything right”) or despair, crying, intense sadness
  • behavior –getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school, avoiding friends or siblings, thoughts of death or suicide
  • cognitive abilities – difficulty concentrating, decline in school performance, changes in grades
  • sleep patterns – difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • physical well-being – loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain.

Symptoms of Bipolar disorder

By the way, bipolar disorder can occur in people of any age, especially it has been seen in adolescence and 20 years of age or earlier. Its symptoms can be different from person to person and its symptoms can also change over time.

Mania and Hypomania

These are two different types of episodes, but their symptoms are similar. Mania, which is more severe than hypomania, leads to difficulty in handling work, studies, and social activities. Mania can also trigger psychosis, which can lead to hospitalization. Both manic and hypomanic have such symptoms-

  • feeling unusually excited, irritable, or strange
  • increased activity, energy, or agitation
  • Increased feeling of being happy and confident (Euphoria)
  • Feeling less in need of sleep
  • talk or talk unnecessarily
  • keep thinking something
  • feel more anxious
  • Difficulty making decisions – for example going to buy something and taking something there or paying more money

Major Depressive Episode

The symptoms in a major depressive episode are severe enough to make it difficult to carry out daily activities. Difficulties in this are very noticeable, such as difficulty in completing school, work and other social activities or personal difficulties, etc. Symptoms of this episode may include the following –

  • Depressive moods such as feeling sad, emptiness, hopelessness, and grief (in children this can also increase irritability).
  • Having no interest or desire in almost all kinds of activities.
  • Weight gain or loss, sometimes loss of appetite, sometimes excessive, (not gaining weight in children can be a sign of depression).
  • Insomnia or excessive sleepiness.
  • Being restless or acting slowly.
  • Feeling tired or lack of energy.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Decreased ability to think and pay attention, difficulty in making decisions.
  • Planning or attempting to commit suicide.

Difference between Bipolar disorder and depression

Depression is all about feeling low and sad, hopeless, etc over a long period of time. Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings. You may experience highs and lows both. Bipolar refers to the opposite ends, or poles, of the emotional spectrum — the highs (mania) and the lows (depression). You might be severely depressed for a period of hours, days, weeks, or even months before entering a manic period. The mania could range from several days to two months or longer. 

Hence, depression is all about the low end whereas, in bipolar disorder, a person experiences emotions at both ends. This means the patient can be really happy and energetic at one time and extremely sad and depressed at the other end.

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