Most everyone experiences various ups and downs throughout life. But if periods of depression alternate with episodes of extreme euphoria or bad-tempered mood, it may be Bipolar Disorder. The main difference between Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder is the presence of mania, which is the complete opposite of clinical depression. Bipolar Depression's "manic" phase is often characterized by, either sudden euphoria, or rage, along with hyperactivity, decreased need for sleep, and reckless behavior. Symptoms of mania may also include: racing thoughts, preoccupation with matters that are irrelevant or unimportant, as well as careless activities such as extravagant shopping sprees, risky sexual behavior, or spur-of-the-moment investments. Sufferers of Bipolar Disorder may also have frequent absences from work or school. The depressed phase of Bipolar Disorder possesses the same symptoms as Major Depression: persistent sadness and fatigue; lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities; changes in sleeping and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating; feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness; and thoughts of death or suicide. People with Bipolar Disorder typically experience dramatic mood swings between MANIA and DEEP DEPRESSION, which is why Bipolar Disorder is sometimes called "manic depression." These diverse mood swings may occur only a few times a year, or as frequently as several times a day, and can persist for several hours, days or even months. Psychotic symptoms may also occur during severe episodes of either mania or depression, including false, delusional beliefs. For example, a person suffering from Bipolar Disorder may believe they have special connections with God, a political figure or a celebrity. Bipolar Disorder symptoms may also occur seasonally, with feelings of depression often occurring during winter months and mania symptoms appearing more frequently in the spring. The precise cause of Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression, is not fully understood. But it's believed there is no single cause. Rather, it may be a combination of biological, environmental and genetic factors. Experts believe imbalances in important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine may play a significant role in Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression. Both Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression tend to run in families, and having a parent or sibling with either illness may increase a person's risk. Environmental and lifestyle factors including, severe stress, sleep disorders, and, excessive drug or alcohol use, are also believed to trigger manic or depressive episodes for Bipolar Disorder sufferers. While both Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression typically disrupt a person's ability to function normally in everyday life, it's not unusual for a person suffering from Bipolar disorder to experience extended periods of normal mood. The good news is that BOTH Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression can be treated. But it's important to see a health care professional for an accurate diagnosis. Typical treatment for both illnesses involves medication and psychotherapy. Commonly prescribed medications for Bipolar Disorder may include mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants and/or antipsychotic drugs. Antidepressants may also be prescribed; however, they may trigger mania in some Bipolar Disorder sufferers. If you experience symptoms of depression or mania, please see your doctor or mental health provider.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012