June 15, 2024

Bipolar Depression – The 5 Facts Everyone Needs to Know

Bipolar depression is one of the hallmarks of bipolar disorder.   People with bipolar disorder experience mood swings between manic episodes filled with abnormally elevated activity or energy levels and depressive episodes associated with a very low energy level.

According to the statistical manual of mental disorders, there are two types of bipolar mood disorders:  bipolar affective disorder (more commonly known as manic-depression) and major depressive disorder.   There is also a milder version of the two called cyclothymia.  Regardless of which diagnosis of bipolar disorder type a person has, the depression for each has the same characteristics.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about bipolar depression.

Here are the five facts every patient and family member needs to know about this illness:

Fact #1

A person diagnosed as bipolar CAN live a full and happy life.  He is not doomed to suffer social stigma or become a homeless addict who commits suicide.

A person with bipolar disorder CAN have a very ‘normal’,  stable life that includes work, family and friends.   There are different levels of severity of bipolar disorder but with the patient’s help and commitment to treatment and taking his medications it is possible for many bipolar patients to lead full, productive lives.

Depressive episodes can have an impact on life but if these are effectively managed individuals with bipolar disorder can rise above their illness.   For example, some well known ‘bipolar people’ are Adam Ant, Russell Brand, Dick Cavett, Robert Downey Jr., Patty Duke and Richard Dreyfuss.

Fact #2

There is often no reason or trigger for a bipolar episode.

Although research studies indicate that certain things can trigger an episode such as sleeplessness, drug use or failure to take medications as prescribed by a doctor, sometimes the episodes just happen.

Issues that are normally thought of to lead to depression such as loss of a loved one can sometimes trigger a major depression in those who have bipolar illness.

Fact #3

Symptoms of bipolar depression are not the same for every patient suffering from bipolar illness.

Bipolar disorder symptoms of depression include but are not limited to:


  • A long period of feeling sad with a low mood level
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Trouble sleeping – this can manifest itself in either sleeping much more than normal or a lack of sleep
  • Change in eating patterns or lack of appetite
  • Loss of interest in an activity normally engaged in
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide or self harming behaviors

Most people with bipolar depression experience at least a couple of these symptoms if not more during their depressive state; however each person experiences different symptoms and to different degrees.  Some depressions may be mild while others are considered major.  There is no one size fits all.

A person is said to be in a depression if he or she experiences any of the above symptoms for a period of two weeks or longer.

Proper treatment can help and alleviate some of the mental pain and anguish associated with one of these episodes.   When a person is in a depressive phase it is important to take the risk of suicide very seriously since while in a depressive state there is an elevated risk of suicide.

Bipolar Depression womanFact #4

There is no definitive cause of bipolar disorder.

Although there is no one cause for this medical condition, research seems to indicate that the leading factors for bipolar disorder are  genetics and environmental factors, or a combination of the two.

A family history of mental illness particularly a form of bipolar disorder can increase the risks of a person getting it.  Often the illness can be traced back to a relative who also has the disorder.

Experts think a person’s environment may play a part in the development of this disorder for some who suffer from it.  For example, approximately 30-50% of all adults who suffer from this condition report that as a child they suffered abuse or trauma.  On average, those who experienced stress as children reported an early onset of the disorder as well as a worse experience with more major highs and lows than those who did not report such childhood trauma.

Fact #5

There is no one single test to confirm a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Most people who have experienced manic and depressive symptoms often want to know:  Am I bipolar?   Usually there is a rating scale administered by the health care provider that is based on the patient’s self-reporting of symptoms, input from friends and families about the person’s behavior and the personal observations of the health care provider.

Bipolar disorder usually first manifests itself between the ages of 15 and 25.  It appears about equally between men and women.

If you are unsure if you are bipolar please seek help immediately.  Bipolar disorder treatment can help and it is very important that if you do suffer from bipolar disorder that you manage the condition as it can grow worse over time.   Some treatments used to help a person manage bipolar mood disorder are psychotherapy, support groups, and medications.

It is also important if you are bipolar or you think you might be that you discontinue all recreational drug use immediately as that often makes the condition worse and brings about episodes of mania and episodes of severe depression.  It can also shorten the time between episodes.


Related Posts

The 10 Most Common Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Manic Depression Symptoms & More

All About Bipolar Depression

Manic Depressive Disorder

Psychotic Depression

Is Depression Genetic ?

Depression Treatment