The Difference Between Unipolar and Bipolar Depression

Depression is a health condition that is associated with various symptoms such as loss of interest, low thinking, change in eating and sleeping habits, the melancholic mood among others. There are two types of depression, unipolar and bipolar depression. A clinical officer needs to identify which kind of depression a patient is suffering from, before proceeding with a treatment plan.

According to research studies, the two depression disorders are confused by most doctors. Almost one-third of patients suffering from bipolar depression disorder are initially misdiagnosed, and reported to be suffering from unipolar depression. This is because, in most cases, patients who suffer from bipolar depression experiences mania as their first symptom, rather than depression. Another reason for this confusion may be due to failure by doctors to diagnose mania. However, there are some differences between unipolar depression and bipolar depression.

Mood aspect

Apparently, the main difference between bipolar depression and unipolar depression is brought about by the mood aspect. It is actually how the patient is affected by depression. People who suffer from unipolar depressions are usually reported to have low moods whereas those who suffers from bipolar depression experiences high moods hence feeling more energized.

Bipolar depression causes mood stabilization and increases individual’s cycling rate between mania and depression. It also causes lack of sleep (insomnia) and may make an individual to engage in impulsive behaviors such as promiscuous sex. Mania is not usually experienced as euphoria by bipolar depression patients. They always experience it in a form of anger, irritability, aggressiveness, hypersensitivity or impulsivity.

Treatment response 

Another common difference between the two depression disorders is their response to treatment. As much as antidepressants have been proven effective for unipolar depression treatment, treatment for bipolar depression using antidepressants can really be a problem.

Unipolar actually is the common depressive disorder and is very easy to treat using antidepressants. In fact, patients who get diagnosed and treatment for depression suffers from unipolar depression. People who suffer from bipolar depression do not usually respond to antidepressant treatment, and if they respond, they do so unpredictably or erratically. This may include the various forms of mania such as irritability, insomnia, agitation and others.

Family history

Family history is another difference that exists between the two disorders. Bipolar disorder has a clear genetic component. However, sometimes it may be very difficult to be certain about the existence of such history. This is because mania experience may be very variable hence inaccurate reporting.

Troubles with the law, substance abuse like drug and alcohol are some of the indicators. Bipolar disorder can also be associated with interpersonal relationships problems as well as troubles with job maintenance.

Age onset 

Another difference is age onset. Research studies have proven that a bipolar disorder is more likely to cause depression when a patient starts developing symptoms at a younger age than at an older age. Another clue is the frequency and duration of depression episodes. Depressed episodes are more frequent though shorter in bipolar disorder while in unipolar disorder, the episodes are long and less frequent.

Awareness about suicide

Suicide awareness is perhaps the most crucial consideration doctors should be aware of when handling the two depression disorders. Bipolar patients are more likely to commit suicide than unipolar patients. According to the latest statistics, most depression-related suicide attempts takes place during early stages of bipolar depression. For unipolar, most attempts occurs at later stages of the condition.

In conclusion, it is very crucial for doctors to identify the difference between unipolar depression and bipolar depression for proper diagnosis and long-term treatment of the patient.

Image source: Thinkstock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Posted on May 22, 2023