What is bipolar depression?
To give the definition to the bipolar depression, you need to know what bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is an illness characterized by rapid and extreme mood swings, racing thoughts, changes in energy and behavior. It is not a sign of personal weakness because the “poles” of the mood vary hugely between mania (highs) and depression (lows). And these poles of the disorder can last for hours, days, weeks or months.
Bipolar depression, in its turn, is that depression which is experienced by those who suffer from bipolar disorder. It can also be called as “lows of bipolar disorder”. All the stages of manic depression interfere with our everyday life, but it is reported that the bipolar depression has the greater and worse impact on person’s life than the manic stage. The depressive stage occurs more often and lasts longer.
The bipolar depression can be either melancholic or psychotic, which makes it biological in its nature. Melancholic bipolar depression is usually characterized by severely depressed mood and the so-called “psychomotor disturbance” – when the person moves slowly or agitatedly. People’s ability to think is disrupted; they can’t get out of bed and do everyday things.
This type of depression differs in the way it responds to the treatment. It can be treated by physical methods (like antidepressants), and it can hardly respond to non-physical treatment (like psychotherapy).
Major Depressive Episode is the most severe form of the depressive episode. It distinguishes because of five or more of the symptoms described below. But they must last at least two weeks to diagnose a bipolar major depressive episode.
Read more about Major Depressive Disorder
So, the symptoms of bipolar depression are:
- a pervasive depressed mood that colors and tones daily routine
- inability to take pleasure from pleasurable activities, such as hobbies, social interactions, sex, food
- changes in appetite (more or less hungry)
- changes in weight (gain or loss) when there’s no obvious diet
- changes in sleeping routine (sleeping more or less than normal)
- body agitation or, more common, retardation (sitting still or hardly moving)
- fatigue and low energy level
- thoughts of person’s worthlessness, shame, guilt
- concentration disturbances
- suicidal thoughts
People with this diagnosis are always tired, move very slowly, they may appear irritated and agitated. It can be difficult for them to get up from the bed in the morning, or, on the contrary, they may stay up all night with insomnia. But in any case, they are likely to complain of constant tiredness and difficulty concentrating on tasks.
The may eat very little or too much, causing rapid changes in weight. The ability to think clearly and rationally is lowered and may cause exaggerated feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, misery, and despair.
Such extreme negative feelings and self-judgments make bipolar-diagnosed people contemplate and commit suicide.
A related condition is known as Dysthymic Disorder or Dysthymia. It is long-lasting mild depression, but can’t be diagnosed at the same time as bipolar disorder. To qualify for dysthymia diagnosis, you have to show signs of consistently mild depressive symptoms appearing for at least two years. If you have experienced manic or hypomanic episodes during the two-year period – it is not a dysthymic disorder.
Bipolar I/Bipolar II and Depression
There are different types of bipolar disorder. And in fact, it doesn’t matter, whether you are suffering from bipolar I or bipolar II – if the symptoms of bipolar depression have revealed themselves, they will be similarly severe despite the type of bipolar disorder. But some studies show that young people with bipolar II complain more about sleeping more and the increased appetite than about the loss of the sleep and appetite (as it is in melancholia). It is also indicated that in bipolar II the depression can be both more frequent and more chronic than in depression I. In addition, there is a comparable suicide risk between bipolar I and II sufferers. Some researchers say that the risk of suicide is higher among those suffering from bipolar II. Also rapid cycling is more common among bipolar II suffers than bipolar I, leading both to difficulties in diagnosis and missed treatment opportunities.
All the aforementioned ideas lead to the fact that it is vitally important for people with bipolar II to treat the depression.
As for the statistics, nearly six million adult Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. The first symptoms fully blossom in late adolescence (often in teen years), though it can start in early childhood or later in life. The illness develops equally between men and women (men tend to begin with a manic episode, women with a depressive episode), and it doesn’t differentiate ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. As a rule, the illness runs in families and appears to have a genetic link. Like depression and other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can also negatively affect the relations of spouses and partners, family members, friends, and coworkers.
Therefore, it is super important to not underestimate the illness, to not think that it is just a bad mood or a sign of weakness in case of a depressive episode. The disorder can ruin everything for the person who suffers from bipolar. So pay attention, don’t be afraid and be prepared to ask for help or provide your relative or a friend with the support they may need.