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What Is The Difference Between Bipolar And Unipolar Depression

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The Difference Between Unipolar And Bipolar Depression

5 differences between Unipolar AND Bipolar Depression. EXPLAINED

Bipolar disorder and major depression share some similarities. They are sometimes confused because both can include depressive episodes, but there are some key differences.

The main difference between the two is that depression is unipolar, meaning that there are no periods of abnormally elevated mood, while bipolar disorder includes symptoms of mania.

In a recent article for PsychCentral, Sonya Matejko explored the distinction between the two conditions. To put it simply, unipolar depression is another name for major depressive disorder , also known as clinical depression, she wrote. This mood disorder is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness or a lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy.

According to the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental health conditions patients must experience the following to receive an MDD diagnosis:

  • symptoms for two weeks or longer
  • episodes of depression or significant loss of interest, or both
  • a change in the way you previously functioned

Diagnostic criteria include experiencing five or more of the following symptoms in a two-week period:

  • feeling sad or irritable
  • change in appetite or sudden weight loss
  • lack of energy or unusual sense of tiredness
  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • difficulty with decision making or concentrating
  • having thoughts about self-harming

Can Unipolar And Bipolar Depression Be Treated Naturally

Unipolar and bipolar depression are medical conditions that can respond to natural treatments such as therapy, exercise, and healthy eating, but in many cases, the depression is stronger than what nature gives us as tools. Adding a medication for persistent, suicidal depression, for example, can be life-saving. When the brain is not working correctly, medications can help get our chemistry back on track. Always keep in mind that unipolar has one treatment protocol and bipolar depression has another.

Bipolar Vs Unipolar What Are They

Both bipolar and unipolar are two mental health disorders.

Unipolar is closely connected with depression. On the other hand, bipolar disorder causes extreme fluctuations in mood that include mania and depression.

Both these medical conditions share the same symptoms with three main differences as follows:

  • Bipolar depression is more episodic than unipolar
  • Bipolar depression is always on the edge of mania
  • Due to the mania risk, bipolar depression treatment is different than unipolar depression treatment.
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    Studies Of Bipolar Depression And Unipolar Depression

    In one large-scale, case-register study including data from 38000 participants internationally, the age of onset for bipolar disorder was 6 years younger than for that of unipolar depression . Nevertheless, the onset of depression was not examined separately.

    Evidence from a retrospective study suggests that bipolar disorder is characterized by more depressive episodes than unipolar disorder is . Several studies suggest that bipolar depressions are shorter and quicker to onset than unipolar depression . Nevertheless, findings are not consistent in this area, with two large-scale studies finding no difference between unipolar and bipolar depression in episode length .

    Cross-study differences in results might be due to changes in gender or episode length over time. Parallel with the gender ratio in unipolar depression, bipolar depression is more common among women than men . One retrospective study reported that the length of bipolar depressive episodes shortened over a 15-year period .

    In sum, compared to unipolar depression, bipolar depression appears associated with a younger age of onset, more frequent episodes, and greater short-term mood variability. No consistent differences have been found between episode length, although some studies suggest a shorter episode length of bipolar depressions compared to unipolar depressions. Depression severity appears comparable between bipolar and unipolar disorders.

    Bipolar Depression In A Relationship


    It is when we are in absolute despair that we most need the comfort of loved ones. The irony is this is also the time when we feel the most unlovable, are least able to return love, and tend to strain the devotion and patience of even the most steadfast caregiver.

    T.L. knows her husbands depressed when he grows quiet, turns from sweet to snappy, has trouble sleeping, becomes overly critical, and begins obsessing over trivial things, like irritating TV commercials. As soon as she observes such symptoms, T.L. asks her husband how hes feeling and whether anything is stressing him out.

    One time, I was on the computer and he came down to the office to say good night. I was in the middle of writing an email. He gave a big sigh, stomped up the stairs, and slammed the bedroom door. I went up and calmly asked what his problem was, and he snapped something about not kissing him goodnight as if I could read his mind. I quickly realized this was an conversation, told him so and to get some sleep, and we could have a rational conversation the next day, which we did.

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    The Darkness & Despair Of Bipolar Depression

    When the darkness doesnt lift, despite the help of family and modern medicine, many people lose all hope. According to the national Mental Health Association, 30 to 70 percent of suicide victims suffered from major depression or bipolar disorder. And a 2000 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that approximately 25 to 50 percent of patients with bipolar attempt suicide at least once.

    A mixed state can place a patient at particularly high risk of suicide, says Caine of the University of Rochester. In a mixed state, someone has the thinking and motor features that are much more like someone on the manic end of things, he says. But you can also be very suicidal then. Its a time of impulsivity and very rapid actions. It may appear like suicide is sudden, but the person may have been thinking about it for a long time, and now they have the fuel to do it.

    The trick for doctors and caregivers is not to be fooled by body languagesomeone in a mixed state can be smiling and standing straighter yet still be capable of suicide.

    Demographic And Clinical Characteristics

    No significant differences in age, gender, and education level were found among the three groups. All clinical characteristics compared did not significantly differ between tBD and UD, including onset age, number of episodes, total illness duration, current episode duration, and total score of HAMD-17, family history of affective disorder, chronicity, refractory, suicide attempt, diurnal depression variance, and treatment . Results of binary logistic regression analysis showed that group was not related to treatment , indicating that transition to BD was not due to differences in treatment.

    Table 1. Demographic and clinical characteristics among three groups.

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    Is Bipolar Depression Worse Than Unipolar Depression

    Theres no way to say which is worse than the other. Both major and bipolar depression is challenging to manage for various reasons. However, bipolar depression is more episodic than unipolar, which can be stressful on both the individual and the people around them.

    Agitation and impulsivity, which are common behaviors in people with bipolar disorder, can add a level of stress that a person with depression may not experience. People with bipolar disorder may go on excessive shopping or gambling sprees during manic episodes or feel the need to take out a huge loan for a sudden business idea.

    Comparison Of Neurotransmitter Activity In Bipolar Depression And Unipolar Depression

    Bipolar Disorder Type 1 vs Type 2 | Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

    Several studies have identified distinct biological correlates of mania. These include increased dopamine activity , hyperpolarization in transmembrane potentials , and changes in dopamine sub-3 receptor mechanisms . However, here we focus on the correlates of bipolar depression, as compared to unipolar depression. Although there have been many recent gains in the procedures for studying neurotransmitter regulation, including studies of genetic transporter mechanisms, amphetamine-challenge studies, and for some neuro-transmitters, spectroscopy, these novel approaches have not been applied to direct comparisons of bipolar and unipolar depression.

    5.2.1. Dopamine

    A focal structure in theories of affective disorders is the DA-secreting neurons of the ventral tegmental area that project to the nucleus accumbens and the cerebral cortex . This system is the key because of its modulatory role in appetive motivation and goal-directed behaviors. Excessively low DA activity is posited to be the hallmark of depression, and considerable evidence supports this perspective in unipolar depression, including recent studies using a D-amphetamine challenge .

    5.2.2. Norepinephrine

    Importantly, when recurrence rates are similar, plasma NE and MHPG levels, urinary MHPG levels, and neuroendocrine abnormalities associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis are remarkably similar in bipolar II and unipolar depression .

    5.2.3. Serotonin

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    What Is Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depression, is a mental health condition that produces extreme mood swings. These include incredibly emotional highs, known as mania or hypomania, and incredible lows, characterized as depression. When a person becomes depressed, they typically feel sad and hopeless or lose interest in activities that once brought them joy. If your mood shifts to hypomania or mania, the individual will feel euphoric or full of energy like nothing can touch them, similar to how cocaine affects the mind. These mood swings can be dangerous and affect sleep, energy levels, behavior, judgment, and the ability to think clearly.

    These mood swings can occur on rare occasions or happen multiple times a year. Some people will experience some emotional symptoms in between episodes, while others wont encounter any. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can be managed by following a treatment plan. Its commonly treated with medications and psychotherapy.

    There are several types of bipolar disorder. These include depression, mania, or hypomania. These symptoms can lead to unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, leading to distress and challenges in life. The most common forms of bipolar disorder include the following:

    Identifying Manic Symptoms Vs Depressive Symptoms

    Bipolar depression looks very similar to major depression, with no distinct features, says McIntyre. That being said, people with bipolar depression more often complain of symptoms that are atypical for unipolar depression, including increased eating, sleeping, and profound reduction in energy. Moreover, people with bipolar depression also frequently complain of seasonal worsening and therapeutic misadventures with antidepressantsthat is, the depression gets worse with antidepressant therapy.

    Because bipolar and unipolar depression can look so similar, psychiatrists must take care to get detailed family historiesand to ask patients if they have ever experienced symptoms of mania or hypomania, says Eric D. Caine, MD, chairman of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Otherwise, the tendency is to treat it as if its unipolar depression, with antidepressants alone, which may serve as rocket fuel for a manic episode, he adds.

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    Causes Of Unipolar Depression

    As there are large number of people suffering with Unipolar Depression so the causes behind occurrence of this disease are also many and they find their origins over variety of situations. Few journals in medical health branch reveal that genetics is one of the major causes of depression disorder.

    Genetic engineering and gene manipulation concept. Hand is replacing part of a DNA molecule. 3D rendered illustration of DNA.

    Within last few years, almost three fold rises have been observed in the number of patients suffering with unipolar depression and it is commonly found in the first degree relatives of the sufferers out of the general population. Thus, it is well understood that depression is a state that can be commonly observed in family tree with several anatomical and physiological basis.

    Note that, several medical conditions and co-occurring illnesses can reflect serious risk of major depression episodes.

    Also, several symptoms of the disorder may lead to extreme conditions of depression like:

    • Shift in appetite, undereating and overeating.
    • Sleep deregulation or offsetting of circadian rhythms.

    Making proper adjustments for all these habits and patterns can help you to avail easy treatment for depression. And at the same time this improvement can lead to relief for several symptoms in addition to the professional treatment.

    The Difference Between Bipolar And Unipolar Depression

    The Exciting World of Mood Disorders

    There are some distinct differences between bipolar and unipolar depression. As such, its still challenging to make an accurate diagnosis as a medical professional. Bipolar disorder consists of mood swings, bipolar depression, and bipolar mania. Unipolar depression shares similar symptoms. However, there are three primary differences, including the following:

  • Bipolar depression is considered more episodic than unipolar depression.
  • Bipolar depression sometimes tips into mania.
  • Because of the mania risk, bipolar depression treatment varies from unipolar depression treatment.
  • Unipolar and bipolar depression appear similar when compared on a depression scale. The way a person talks, thinks, and acts are the same. The primary difference when treating these conditions is due to bipolar depression and its close ties with mania. Unipolar depression can safely utilize serotonin-based treatment, including SSRI antidepressants, lightbox therapy, and amino acid supplements. Bipolar depression treatment requires caution when using serotonin-boosting treatment because of its ability to cause mania.

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    Unipolar And Bipolar Depression: Different Disorders

    The prevailing model is that the depressions within unipolar and bipolar disorders are qualitatively different in etiology and phenomenology. This type of duality is exemplified in the DSM diagnostic system, with unipolar and bipolar disorders categorized as separate branches on the mood disorder diagnostic tree. This separate branch includes both mania and bipolar depression on the bipolar âbranch,â rather than depression without mania, depression and mania, and monopolar mania. Drawing on the strong evidence that mania is biologically driven, bipolar depression has been seen as more endogenous than unipolar depression. As a consequence of this dichotomy in the diagnostic nomenclature, research in mood disorders tends to focus on either bipolar disorder as a whole, failing to account for episode polarity in bipolar disorder, or unipolar depression. Few researchers have directly compared unipolar and bipolar depression.

    Clinical Differences Between Bipolar And Unipolar Depression

    Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 January 2018

    Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
    Daniel Smith
    Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
    Lisa Jones
    Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham
    Ian Jones
    Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
    Sian Caesar
    Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham
    Carly Cooper
    Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham
    Christine Fraser
    Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
    Katherine Gordon-Smith
    Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
    Sally Hyde
    Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham
    Anne Farmer
    Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, London
    Peter McGuffin
    Medical Research Council Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, London
    Nick Craddock*
    Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff
    Professor Nick Craddock, Department of PsychologicalMedicine, Henry Wellcome Building, Wales School of Medicine, CardiffUniversity, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK. Email:

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    Studies About Patients Suffering With Unipolar Depression

    As per the details included in Journal of the American Medical Association, about 20 to 26% of women and approximately 8 to 12% of men in United States are suffering with lifetime depression issues.

    Although, these states does not represent the major issues in the States as this disease just affect the minor section of whole population and most of these sufferers dont even need any specific treatment.

    Note that these males and females does not encounter lifetime depression occurrences and reports of year 2005 reveal that the average affected age with depression is 32. As per the stats discussed above, it can be seen that females in the country are more affected by depression as compared to males.

    Actually, there are several reasons behind finding women more affected with unipolar major depression problems. But the actual tendency of this depression is to occur with several other major illnesses as well as severe mental conditions.

    These troubles can lead to anything essential ranging from pregnancy to several recurring or chronic troubles. As per the studies carried by National Institute of Mental Health, almost 25% of cancer sufferers, one third of the heart attack survivors and around one third population of HIV patients usually suffer with major depression.

    Although few major troubles are more related to man, still psychology reveals that there are several psychological reasons behind finding large numbers of woman affected with this medical condition.

    Unipolar Vs Bipolar Depression

    Unipolar Mania | Can you Be Manic and Never Depressed?

    The term unipolar depression is used to distinguish major depressive disorder from bipolar disorder, which is characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression. Sometimes bipolar disorder is misdiagnosed as unipolar depression. In these cases, treatment is not successful, as treatment for the two disorders differs.

    Unipolar depression has distinct differences from bipolar disorder, including lack of manic/hypomanic episodes however, depression is also a symptom of bipolar disorder. Its important that if you are having signs of depression, you receive a proper diagnosis from a medical professional, who will determine if you are experiencing unipolar depression or bipolar depression.

    Read Also: Do Bipolar Know What They Are Doing

    Its Important To Understand The Major Differences Between Bipolar Depression And Unipolar Depressionand To Help Educate Others About The Distinctions

    Most people know what depression looks and feels likea lack of motivation, waking up in the morning with the thought, What is the point of my life? and asking, Is this all there is?

    Depression can include a lot of anxiety , obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, focus problems, irritation, and sometimes psychosis . Depression symptoms also include crying, catatonic feelings, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and what I call psychic pain.

    This kind of depression can be genetic, called unipolar depression, or situational depression, such as when a person who has always been stable goes into a deep depression after the loss of a loved one.

    Bipolar depression is even more complex, in my experience.

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