Posted by: Morne | 2019/10/25


Depression vs Bipolar Depression

Good Morning Dr I trust you are well. I was just wondering, but is the difference between normal depression and bipolar depression? And is the treatment the same? Kind Regards

Expert's Reply


Depression expert
- 2019/10/28

Good morning Morne.
Excellent question.  One could speak of Unipolar and Bipolar Depression.  Basic depression ( it's common, but not really "normal"! ) is what most people think of as depression : Major Depression, a nasty illness with a typically lowered mood and a bunch of other symptoms.  Bipolar Disorder is an even more serious problem, where our system for controlling our mood is not working properly, and we have mood swings ; repeatedly we may have a nasty depression, much like the standard type, but then we also, periodically have almost the opposite of a depression, a Manic Episode,  when the mood swings up and get too high, when we're over-active, agitated, too optimistic and unrealistic : its also most unpleasant ( though some people may enjoy the early stages of a "high"), and exhausting and risky, and one may make some seriously damaging and foolish decisions which seem brilliant to us at the time.
So, though in both disorders, antidepressant meds would be useful when depressed,  in the manic phase of Bipolar may use a variety of calming and sedative medications to reduce the over-activity ;  and another type of medicine as a Mood Stabilizer.  This reduces the extent and frequency of the mood swings and helps one to become more stable.  Some of these are also useful in epilepsy, as they help limit unstable and over-active nerves.   The Depression in both disorders would be similar, but in Bipolar Disorder, there are the added problems of unstable mood swings and manic episodes.

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