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4 differences between depression and depressive episode of bipolar disorder

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Mood disorders are among the most widespread psychopathologies among the population, and among them, there are two especially frequent alterations: major depression, and Bipolar disorder.

Although both have many similarities and could be said to share a relationship according to diagnostic manuals, it is important know their particularities and know how to distinguish between the two psychological alterations, especially taking into account that the bipolarity has a phase in which the person suffers a depressive state, although it does not become exactly the same as depression "conventional". Therefore, in this article we will review the differences between major depression and the depressive episode of bipolar disorderSo don't confuse the two.

How to distinguish between depression and the depressive episode in bipolar disorder?

To begin with, let's see what are the characteristics, effects and symptoms of these two psychopathologies.

The major depression, also called clinical depression or unipolar depression to distinguish it from bipolar disorder,

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is possibly the most common mood disorder; its most notable symptoms are anhedonia (inability to fully experience pleasure or good humor), dysthymia (lack of motivation before any activity, including hobbies that the person used to enjoy), affective flattening, the feeling of almost constant fatigue and need to rest more, the hopelessness, crying spells that are difficult to control and without an apparent cause, sleep disturbances, and suicidal ideation, although they do not all have to occur in the same person.

In addition, unipolar depression tends to last an average of 6 months, although relapses are frequent, and it can reappear several months or years after the disappearance of symptoms.

On the other hand, bipolar disorder is another mood disorder in which phases of a depressive state alternate with others of a state of psychological hyperactivation associated with euphoria and the motivation to do many things, even if it is unreasonable to engage in those activities. When the latter is so harmful that it supposes a mental health problem, we are facing an episode of what is usually called mania; When this state of high psychological activity does not cause such significant problems, we are facing an episode of hypomania. Bipolar disorder in which there are manic episodes is type I, and if hypomanic episodes occur, it is type II.

  • Related article: "Mental health: definition and characteristics according to psychology"

Main differences between major depression and depressive episode of bipolarity

When distinguishing between unipolar depression and the depressive episode of bipolar disorder, it should be borne in mind that, according to diagnostic manuals, the symptoms are the same in both cases, although in the case of bipolarity we must also consider the symptoms of the weeks or months in which the person experiences mania or hypomania. However, in practice, there are some nuances and subtle differences that allow us to distinguish between clinical depression and the depressive episode of bipolarity. Let's see what they are.

1. Bipolarity generates falls into a depressive state more frequently

Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating affective states, the more or less rapid transit between mania or hypomania, on the one hand, and depression, on the other. And although depressive episodes generally last more than twice as long as those of increased nervous activity, without treatment, they usually come to an end a little earlier than major depression, which has a great capacity to settle in the person's day-to-day life for more than a year. year. Now, although it is a little more fleeting, the depressive episode of bipolarity also tends to appear more frequently in those people who have developed this disorder.

  • You may be interested in: "When depression is not only sad"

2. The depressive episode responds more unpredictably to medication

Antidepressant-type psychoactive drugs are usually very helpful in the treatment of major depression; however, they tend to have more trouble treating those who are in the depressive phase of bipolar disorder, because they either don't work, or they trigger a manic episode very quickly, generating an excessive effect in a short time. time.

3. Major depression is more associated with affective flattening and passivity

In bipolar disorder, depressive episodes are more associated with atypical symptoms that appear to be contrary to decay; For example, these people tend to be more irritable and more easily become hostile compared to those who have developed major depression, and are more active, with a greater tendency to feel hungry frequently. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean they feel better.

4. People with depression tend to sleep somewhat less

Although, as we have seen, those who are in a depressive episode of bipolar disorder have a greater predisposition to be more active than those who suffer from unipolar depression, they also have a greater tendency to sleep much more than usual. It is believed that this is due to the unbalanced functioning of the nervous system, which produces a pendulum effect in relation to energy expenditure.

  • Related article: "Emotional instability: what is it and in what signs can it be detected?"

Do you want to have psychotherapeutic assistance?

If you are interested in starting a therapy process to deal with depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mood disorder, contact us. In PSiCOBAi we can help you.
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