What are the differences between Bipolar depression and depression?

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Bipolar depression and unipolar depression (commonly referred to as depression) are related, but they have some key differences.  Unipolar depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities. It involves depressive episodes without any history of mania or hypomania.  Bipolar depression, on the other hand, is part of bipolar disorder, which includes both depressive episodes and periods of mania or hypomania. Mania is characterized by elevated mood, increased energy, impulsive behavior, and sometimes, a decreased need for sleep.   While both involve depressive episodes, unipolar depression is characterized solely by depressive symptoms, while bipolar depression is one aspect of bipolar disorder, which includes both depressive and manic episodes.

If you answer yes to the following 5 questions you might be dealing with bipolar disorder.

  • Have you ever experienced periods of intense, elevated mood or energy that were unusual for you, where you felt overly happy, irritable, or had an increased sense of self-esteem?
  • Have there been times when you felt the need to engage in impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, risky sexual activity, or increased involvement in pleasurable activities, without considering the consequences?
  • Have you noticed significant changes in your sleep patterns, such as a decreased need for sleep during certain periods or difficulty sleeping during others?
  • Do you ever experience racing thoughts, rapid speech, or an inability to focus during specific periods, making it difficult for you to complete tasks or follow through with plans?
  • Have you had episodes of prolonged and severe sadness, hopelessness, or a lack of interest in activities, where these feelings significantly impact your daily functioning and last for an extended period?

How does going to a residential program help with bipolar disorder?

Residential programs for bipolar disorder provide a structured and supportive environment that can be beneficial for individuals experiencing significant challenges related to bipolar disorder.

Here are some ways in which a residential program can help:

  • Structured Routine: Residential programs often offer a structured daily routine, including therapy sessions, group activities, and meals. This structure can help stabilize mood and provide a sense of predictability, which is important for individuals with bipolar disorder.
  • Medication Management: In a residential setting, medication adherence can be closely monitored, ensuring that individuals receive the appropriate medications at the right times. This is crucial for managing bipolar symptoms effectively.
  • 24/7 Support: Residential programs typically provide round-the-clock support from mental health professionals. This constant availability can be crucial during crises or times of heightened symptoms, ensuring immediate assistance and intervention.
  • Therapeutic Interventions: Residential programs offer various therapeutic interventions, including individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. These interventions can help individuals learn coping strategies, identify triggers, and develop skills to manage their mood effectively.
  • Peer Support: Being in a residential setting allows individuals to connect with peers who may be going through similar experiences. Peer support can be invaluable for reducing feelings of isolation and fostering a sense of community.
  • Education and Psychoeducation: Residential programs often include educational components where individuals and their families can learn more about bipolar disorder, its symptoms, and effective management strategies. Psychoeducation helps individuals and their loved ones better understand the condition.
  • Immediate Symptom Management: In the event of a crisis, residential programs are equipped to provide immediate intervention and support. This can help prevent the escalation of symptoms and ensure a safe environment for the individual.

About the Author:

Dr. Segal completed his medical school education at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine, in Tucson, Arizona. He continued training in a general psychiatry residency at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Then Dr. Segal completed a forensic psychiatry fellowship at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, in Los Angeles.  Dr. Segal is double board certified in General and Forensic Psychiatry.  Dr. Segal is the Chief Medical Officer at the Valley Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.



Distinguished Fellow American Psychiatric Association

American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Board Certified General Adult and Forensic Psychiatrist

Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Arizona