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You Need To Understand The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder And Depression

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Bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (informally known as depression) are two of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Because they are so common—both estimated to occur in up to 5% of the population—there has been a considerable amount of research searching for possible treatment options.

The signs of depression and bipolar disorder can often be quite similar to one another. Both conditions may cause an individual to experience an ongoing lack of motivation, consistently low mood, and difficulties following through with their long-term goals. Both conditions are statistically more likely to affect teens and young adults than other age demographics. However, despite the many things that depression and bipolar disorder have in common, there are still quite a few defining characteristics that make each condition unique.

In order to make sure that your teen is getting the proper care and treatment they deserve, it will be important to get an official diagnosis from a licensed physician. Whether your teen eventually visits a residential treatment program or receives a less intensive form of therapy, a proper diagnosis will be necessary in order to achieve the most optimal results.

In this article, we will discuss the most important differences between bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD). We will also discuss some of the similarities that may cause these conditions to be falsely conflated, as well as some of the top treatment options available. By making an effort to understand why life may be difficult for your teenager, you are already taking an important step towards helping them live their best life.

What Is The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder And Depression?

The term “bipolar” is a combination of the Latin prefix “bi”, meaning two, and the term “polar”, meaning (at least in this case) the extreme end of a spectrum. In other words, an individual suffering from bipolar disorder will experience emotional states taking place on opposite ends of the “emotional spectrum.”

Individuals who are suffering from major depressive disorder will experience depressive episodes that can last for moments, days and even weeks on end. During a depressive episode, the individual who is suffering will experience a consistent low mood, a generally negative outlook on life, and a continued lack of motivation.

Depression is frequently characterized by chemical and biological imbalances, meaning that even if your teen wants to complete ordinary tasks like going to school, making new friends, planning for the future, etc, it will be physically much more difficult for them to do so. Because of this, the first thing that any parent of a depressed teenager should try to do is develop a lasting sense of empathy. But additionally, it will also be crucial to connect your teen with the resources they need to recover.

Bipolar disorder is often referred to as “manic depression” due to the fact that it presents many of the same symptoms of MDD, but also presents symptoms from the other end of the emotional spectrum as well (mania). Individuals who are experiencing bipolar disorder will often experience depressive episodes that may last for long periods of time. They will also experience manic episodes, too.

During a “manic episode” an individual may exhibit feelings of grandiosity, unreasonable ambitions, paranoia, reckless decision making, and difficulty sleeping. In many cases, symptoms of mania will exhibit the “polar” opposite of symptoms of depression. An individual who experiences bipolar disorder may cycle between constantly sleeping and staying awake for days, constantly eating and going days without food, and feeling incredibly ambitious and unable to get out of bed—all within a relatively short timeframe.

Individuals who cycle between depression and mania on a more than daily basis may be suffering from “rapid cycle depression”. Because bipolar disorder produces such a wide range of emotions and behaviors, developing a personalized treatment plan will often be more difficult than developing a plan intended to treat depression alone.

What Do Bipolar Disorder And Depression Have In Common?

As implied, the main characteristic that bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder have in common is that the individuals who are suffering from both conditions will experience depressive episodes on a regular basis. It is also possible for some individuals to only experience occasional manic episodes, which will disqualify them from receiving either diagnosis.

While individuals who are suffering from bipolar may appear to “come out” of their depressive episodes with greater ease, that does not mean the condition is necessarily easier to deal with. Instances of mania can have lasting consequences, some of which are very difficult to reverse or undo.

In addition to having many symptoms in common, the potential causes of bipolar disorder and depression will often significantly overlap:

  • Genetics and family history
  • Bullying, abuse, and other forms of trauma
  • Tragic events such as the loss of a loved one
  • Substance abuse disorders

Substance abuse may not always be the direct cause of a mental health condition, but it will exacerbate most mental health conditions, including both bipolar disorder and depression. In order to address the complex relationship between these conditions and other mental health issues, many top adolescent residential treatment centers for depression and bipolar will engage in a comprehensive practice known as dual diagnosis.

Is It Possible For Depression To Change Into Bipolar Disorder?

Conditions such as cancer and diabetes are frequently referred to as “binary” conditions. While both of these conditions have varying degrees of intensity, a physician will be able to definitively tell you that you either have the disease or you do not. Bipolar disorder and depression, on the other hand, are often referred to as “spectrum” conditions. There is no clear line where a person can be deemed definitively depressed or bipolar; instead, the existence of these conditions take place upon a complicated spectrum, where the lines can be quite arbitrary.

Because bipolar disorder and depression exist along a spectrum, it is quite possible for one condition to eventually “evolve” into another. An individual may initially be diagnosed with having a major depressive disorder, but once they begin experiencing manic episodes, it may be time for a new diagnosis. Similarly, it is also possible to initially be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and eventually have that diagnosis “reduced” to depression once the manic episodes have subsided.

What Are Some Of The Top Treatments For Bipolar Disorder And Depression?

Because bipolar disorder and depression are both conditions existing upon a spectrum, there will be a wide variety of different treatment options available. There are an ample amount of medications designed to treat both conditions (some medications may be able to treat both). For individuals who are in need of more intensive forms of treatment, receiving a customized treatment plan at a depression rehab may be necessary.

  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Neurofeedback
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and its many derivatives)
  • Group Therapy
  • Experiential Therapies

These are just a few of the treatment options that are well within your reach. If your teen has never received any type of professional treatment in the past, it may be best, to begin with, an individual therapy session and work your way up from there. Regardless, receiving an accurate diagnosis will be absolutely critical.

Conclusion

Bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder are both very common in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The main difference between these conditions is that individuals suffering from bipolar disorder will experience depressive episodes in addition to occasional manic episodes. By making an effort to understand these essential differences, you can help connect your teen with the mental health treatment plan they need.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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