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What is Bipolar Depression?

By Lucinda Reynolds
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bipolar disorder is a term used to describe a mental health disorder in which an individual will alternate between a depressed state and a manic state. This type of brain disorder is sometimes called manic-depressive illness. Someone with bipolar depression will sometimes feel so low in his depressed state that he can't even get out of bed. At other times, this same individual can become so full of energy during a manic state that he doesn't sleep for days.

People will usually develop bipolar disorder in their late teens or early adult years. It is estimated that at least 50% of all cases of bipolar disorder are diagnosed by the age of 25. Researchers suspect that this illness is inherited because there appears to be a strong family link. Research into this mental health disorder is ongoing, but as of yet a specific genetic defect has not been found.

A big problem with bipolar depression is that sometimes it is difficult to diagnose. The symptoms may not be severe enough to spot right away. Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed after the symptoms start to cycle between depression and mania on a regular basis. This can delay much needed treatment for the individual who is suffering from bipolar depression.

Depression symptoms of bipolar disorder can usually be identified when an individual loses all interest in the world around him. He may want to sleep all the time and may refuse to leave his bed for days. In some cases, depression can become so severe, the individual will have thoughts of suicide or even attempt suicide. A severely depressed individual should never be left alone, and he needs to seek treatment right away.

The other side of bipolar disorder is the mania phase. The same individual that was depressed a few days ago may suddenly exhibit intense levels of energy. Instead of sleeping for days, he may stop sleeping at all. The danger during the mania phase comes when an individual engages in risky behaviors such as spending too much money or becoming sexually promiscuous.

Some experts believe that not enough attention is paid to the depression state of bipolar disorder. Although the manic phase may be more obvious, bipolar depression is often the more dangerous phase of the illness, and the more difficult to treat. Studies have also found that people with bipolar disorder often spend far more time in the depressed stage than they do in the manic stage.

There is treatment for those who suffer from bipolar disorder and depression. Psychological counseling and medications can usually bring the symptoms under control. On occasion, if a manic episode or depressive phase is severe, hospitalization may be necessary to keep the individual from harming himself. Bipolar depression is a lifelong illness, and treatment should never be stopped without the guidance of a physician.

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