What is Bipolar Depression?

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Bipolar depression is a disorder that is defined by cycling moods and energy levels that fall far outside the norm. This combination of manic or hypomanic episodes punctuated by depressive episodes is the primary defining characteristic. To begin to understand this disorder, it helps to know the three main types of bipolar depression.

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder

Most bipolar depression diagnoses fall under one of these three categories. However, people can sometimes exhibit bipolar disorder symptoms for other reasons that don’t meet the standard to be considered cyclothymic disorder. These symptoms are usually a result of another health problem or drug or alcohol abuse.

If You Suffer From Bipolar Depression, You’re Not Alone

About 2.8% of the U.S. population are diagnosed with a bipolar mood disorder. (1) The majority of bipolar sufferers are diagnosed with either Bipolar I or Bipolar II. Bipolar I, has the most severe symptoms. It is characterized by manic episodes lasting a week or longer, or severe mania that requires a hospital visit. Bipolar I patients also experience depressive episodes usually lasting 2 weeks or more. Bipolar II patients experience similar, but much milder symptoms than those with Bipolar I. They may go through hypomanic periods of high energy and enthusiasm, but not full-blown manic episodes. They also experience depressive troughs of low energy and depressed mood. (2)

The full-blown mania of a Bipolar I manic episode can be alarming to observers and dangerous to the person experiencing it. During an episode, the person may speak rapidly, jumping from subject to subject and exhibit extreme enthusiasm. These racing thoughts are usually accompanied by high physical energy and insomnia. Judgment is affected, they may espouse seemingly wild ideas that they would never normally entertain. A manic episode can even sometimes lead to psychosis, this is another reason why it is so important for Bipolar I sufferers to get proper treatment.

Hypomania, as experienced by Bipolar II sufferers is a much milder form. The less severe features of Bipolar II often make it more difficult to diagnose. A person with Bipolar II disorder is often able to function and live a relatively normal life. They may even learn to harness their hypomania and channel it into productive pursuits. Their depressive episodes can vary in severity, but many people with Bipolar II manage to live without treatment or medication for many years. Most people with Bipolar II also find treatment or therapy beneficial, whether or not medication is needed.

The extremes of Bipolar I disorder can make it almost impossible to live a normal life without disruption. Full-blown manic episodes often result in the sufferer needing to be hospitalized. Many Bipolar I patients get a certain amount of enjoyment out of manic symptoms or may find that they miss the way they used to feel after beginning treatment with medications to stabilize their mood. One of the most common problems faced by Bipolar I patients is deliberately neglecting to follow their medication regimen. This is something any spouse, family member or caretaker of a Bipolar I sufferer should be aware of.

There Is Help Available

Whichever form of bipolar mood disorder a person may suffer from, there are simple choices that can make life much easier. The first is receiving a proper diagnosis by a qualified psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Once a diagnosis is made, medication may be recommended by a psychiatrist. Whether or not a medication regiment is suggested, two of the easiest ways to help a bipolar person at home is by maintaining order and routine in their lives and engaging in regular exercise. Choices as simple as keeping a tidy bedroom and socks and underwear neatly organized and keeping a regular bedtime introduce order. These behaviors can be helpful for a Bipolar II sufferer, but critical for a person with Bipolar I. Studies have shown that regular exercise and proper nutrition also contribute greatly to the stability of the lives of people with a Bipolar Mood Disorder. Exercise helps alleviate anxiety and regulate stress hormones. (2) It is absolutely possible to live a healthy, fulfilling life with a bipolar disorder, if it is diagnosed and managed properly. If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering from bipolar mood disorder, please consider calling us at (844) 746-8836 for guidance.


(1) https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder
(2) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

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