Bipolar Disorder is characterized by unpredictable and dramatic mood swings between poles of mania and depression. But what exactly does the depressed side of Bipolar Disorder look like and what are the symptoms? Occasionally feeling sad, anxious or down is a normal part of life. However, the intense feelings of sadness, anxiety and emptiness that typically characterize Bipolar depression may affect virtually every aspect of day-to-day living, causing a person to suffer both emotional and physical symptoms. The severity and frequency of Bipolar depression symptoms vary from person to person, and not everyone experiences every symptom. Typically, however, symptoms of depression may adversely impact relationships, ability to function at school, work or home, and affect physical well-being as well. The primary symptoms of Bipolar depression typically involve feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness, as well as an overall sense of guilt and pessimism. Those suffering Bipolar depression may experience uncontrollable crying, or be extremely restless and continually feel unsettled, along with feeling uncharacteristically irritable. Symptoms of Bipolar depression often typically include an inability to experience pleasure, along with loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. For example, sufferers may no longer find any appeal in hobbies, social activities or sexual activity. Bipolar depression sufferers may also experience a debilitating loss of energy and fatigue, as well as physical and mental sluggishness in general. This may result in the person moving or speaking more slowly than usual, along with difficulties concentrating, making decisions and remembering. Additionally, many sufferers may experience a variety of sleep-related symptoms. Some people may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. Others may continually oversleep or simply can't bring themselves to get out of bed. Changes in appetite are also a common symptom of Bipolar depression. Some may overeat, which may result in significant weight gain. Or they may have little or no appetite at all, causing considerable weight loss. One of the most serious symptoms of Bipolar depression is a preoccupation with death or thoughts of suicide, especially when depression is severe. Factors such as a history of alcohol or drug abuse, or a family history of suicide may heighten the risk of suicide. Because sufferers may purposely isolate themselves and avoid interactions with family and friends, it's particularly important to be aware of the symptoms of suicidal behavior, which may include reckless actions, talking about being a burden to others, saying goodbye, seeking pills or obtaining a gun. Bipolar depression can often be accompanied by unexplained and persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to typical treatment including digestive disorders, headaches and chronic pain. When depression is especially severe, sufferers may develop psychotic symptoms and experience a break with reality. What separates these depression symptoms from Unipolar Major Depression is that those with Bipolar Disorder experience manic or hypomanic episodes as well. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the symptoms described here, please see a mental health professional.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012