Have you ever asked yourself, “Are bipolar and depression the same?” Many who suffer with depressive symptoms may be surprised when they’re diagnosed with something other than Major Depressive Disorder, but the truth is that these symptoms can be a sign of many other mental health conditions, including but not limited to Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

There are many disorders that involve depressive symptoms, but in this blog, we’re going to discuss the similarities and differences between Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.

First let’s start by defining each disorder.

Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

Depression is a common mood disorder that affects around 5% of adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.  Although individuals with depression certainly have good days and bad days, their symptoms are persistent over several months, or even years. Some of the symptoms of depression are lack of interest in daily activities, poor energy levels, apathy, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, changes in weight, and suicidal ideations.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental disorder that causes individuals to experience manic and depressive episodes. The disorder affects 45 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (compared with 264 million who have depression). During manic episodes or attacks, individuals with bipolar disorder experience elevated energy levels, euphoria, impulsivity, and a decreased need for sleep. During depressive episodes, those with this disorder experience symptoms similar to those listed above for depression: fatigue, guilt, lack of interest in normal activities, etc.

Similarities between Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Similar symptoms at times – Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder have similar symptoms during depressive bipolar swings. We mentioned previously that those with Bipolar Disorder experience extreme mood swings, between manic and depressive. During manic bipolar swings, the symptoms are not similar to depression, but during depressive swings, the symptoms are nearly identical.

Affects all ages – Both depression and bipolar can affect children and youth as well as adults. While the most common onset period for bipolar is age 25, individuals of any age can experience it. Depression can also occur at different stages of life.

No cure but treatable – Both depression and bipolar have no cure, but are both treatable with behavioral therapy, mood stabilizers, and other medications. Treatments for both disorders have been proven to be very effective.

Differences between Bipolar Disorder and Depression

Mania features – Individuals with Bipolar Disorder will experience extreme mood swings, including manic moods lasting two weeks or more in which they will feel hyper-active, excitable, irritable, and more willing to take sexual and financial risks. People with Major Depressive Disorder do not experience this.

Genetics – Studies have shown that Bipolar Disorder is hereditary, and has a very high likelihood of being passed from parent to child. The studies surrounding the genetics of depression inheritance are still emerging.

Short Answer to “Are Depression and Bipolar the same?”

Bipolar and Depression are not the same, but can have similar symptoms during times when a person with Bipolar Disorder experiences depressive episodes.

When to Seek Help

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Inpatient treatment is sometimes necessary for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. If you are experiencing a manic episode, or are depressed to the point where you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, seek help at an emergency room.

Salt Lake Behavioral Health offers inpatient psychiatric treatment that involves individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and intensive outpatient aftercare. For more information about our programs, call 801-264-6000.