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Treatment Differences Between Bipolar Depression and Depression

Learn about the major differences between the treatment of bipolar depression and depression and why it's so important you know about Bipolar Depression.

Learn about the major differences between the treatment of bipolar depression and depression and why it's so important you know about bipolar depression.

The treatment differences between bipolar depression and depression are directly related to the different symptoms of the two. It's much easier for a person with bipolar depression to lose control of their symptoms and require hospitalization; especially after a full-blown manic episode. Often a person with bipolar depression gets one part of the illness under control, such as their depression, and then something else pops up and further complicates the situation.

Treatments that may work for depression in general, including supplements and light boxes, can also cause complications for bipolar depression. Talk therapy for situational depression can be very successful. Unfortunately, therapy has less success in genetic mood disorders, unless the physiological symptoms of the illness are addressed first. A therapist experienced in mood disorder treatment can greatly improve depression and bipolar depression treatment. Overall, treatments that work for depression may have less success with bipolar depression due to the accompanying symptoms that most people with depression rarely experience.

The following explains in detail the symptoms that are more common in bipolar depression than depression.

Intense anxiety symptoms: Worry, trouble breathing, scared to go out in public, feel like something is going to go wrong or that something is going to harm you. Feelings of spinning out of control, physical agitation, and racing, worried thoughts. Obsessive worries that you have done something wrong or that you left something on in the house that you have to check. All of these anxiety disorder symptoms can be more frequent and intense with bipolar disorder - which further complicates bipolar depression treatment.

Mania symptoms: Vigilant monitoring for mania is essential with any bipolar depression treatment plan, especially by family members and healthcare professionals (HCPs). A mixed episode (the presence of depression, mania and often psychosis) can create intense treatment difficulties as well. When the mixed episode includes aggression, treatment is even more complicated.

Psychosis symptoms: Hearing voices, seeing things that aren't there, delusions that objects such as radios or billboards are sending special messages, intense physical agitation, seeing yourself getting killed, feeling that someone is following you or talking about you, and much more. Many people with bipolar disorder experience psychosis along with depression.

Rapid Cycling: More than three mood swings a year, going in-and-out of depression a few times a month, week, and even day, a manic episode following a depression episode on a regular basis, feeling happy and then suddenly depressed for no reason. Rapid cycling is a very concerning symptom of Bipolar Depression because once it's present, it's difficult to treat and tends to remain for the life of the illness.

All treatment for Bipolar Depression must address the above symptoms- looking for these symptoms can help healthcare professionals make a correct diagnosis between depression and bipolar depression from the beginning and then start appropriate treatment. To do this, the HCP must compare the typical symptoms shared by both depressions and then look for the specific signs of bipolar depression, ask questions about mania symptoms in the past and then take a detailed family history and look for bipolar disorder. If a member of the family can actually assist with this, the information is more helpful.

If you were a HCP seeing a client with depression for the first time, here are the questions you have to answer in order to determine the correct depression diagnosis:

  • Is the depressed person tired all of the time?
  • Have they gained unexpected weight?
  • Do they have trouble sleeping that doesn't sound like insomnia?
  • Have they tried antidepressants without success?
  • Does the depression come and go without a specific trigger?
  • Has the person experienced mania, even if it's a mild hypomanic day?
  • Is there a family history of Bipolar Disorder?

These questions need to be asked of all people who experience depression so that the correct depression diagnosis is made, appropriate medication treatment starts and the person can move on to a comprehensive treatment plan for bipolar disorder. If you asked yourself these questions or asked them about a person you care about, what would be the diagnosis?

APA Reference
Fast, J. (2009, May 31). Treatment Differences Between Bipolar Depression and Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-depression/treatment-differences-between-bipolar-depression-and-depression

Last Updated: June 1, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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