Bipolar is a psychiatric disorder that’s characterized by states of mania and states of depression. In this two-part series, we’ll look at signs of both bipolar mania and depression. We’ll first discuss the general meaning of bipolar depression, as well as common signs and symptoms. People with bipolar disorder experience states of mania and states of depression, both of which can last anywhere from two months to several months, depending on severity and treatment. In between periods of mania and depression, there can be “normal” periods (known as euthymia), wherein the bipolar person doesn’t experience symptoms of mania or depression. Approximately 2.6% of the population may have bipolar disorder and the chances are greater if a close family member has the disease.
Other contributing factors include:
- Substance use
- Irregularities in neurotransmitters
- Abnormalities in a brain circuitry
- Trauma or abuse
What is Bipolar Depression?
While depression and bipolar depression can have similar symptoms, it’s important to recognize the difference. Both depression and bipolar depression are considered to be influenced both by genetic and environmental factors, and both states include feelings of anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, and trouble sleeping. Those suffering from bipolar depression are at a higher risk of suicide. Those with bipolar depression may also experience “mixed states” where depression, mania, and psychosis can occur simultaneously, resulting in a more complicated mix of symptoms.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Depression
Symptoms of bipolar depression are similar to symptoms of non-bipolar depression. A period of depression may include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt. There is typically a loss of energy, weight loss or gain, inability to concentrate, trouble with decisions, loss of interest in activities, and changes in appetite. Extreme periods of depression may be classified by suicidal thoughts or even attempts at suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also notes that:
- Rough 56% of people with bipolar disorder have a history of illicit drug use
- 44% have experienced an alcohol use disorder (AUD)
- The lifetime prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) among people with bipolar disorder is over 40%
Symptoms of a bipolar disorder will get worse and often be more prolonged without therapeutic intervention. Substance use also makes diagnosis extremely difficult. It is important to seek treatment through a licensed psychiatrist right away if symptoms are present. If addiction couples the disorder, substance abuse disorder treatment with sophisticated medical care may also be necessary. Advanced psychological testing can help with receiving the proper diagnosis. Treatment for bipolar disorder can include traditional therapies such as antipsychotic medications and talk therapy, as well as interventions for trauma, such as EMDR. Proper self-care may also include exercise, eating a healthy diet, and nutrition supplements for brain health.
If you or someone you love is experiencing bipolar depression with suicidal thoughts, please contact the suicide hotline at:
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