What is Bipolar Depression: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is bipolar depression? According to research, 5.7 million Americans over the age of 18 have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Out of the 3.4 million children and adolescents with bipolar disorder systems, one percent are experiencing the onset of bipolar depression. The majority of the cases are severe.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic information in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder. A person’s mood changes as if swinging like a pendulum from one mood to the other.

What is Bipolar Depression?

Depression and mania are the two moods involved in bipolar disorder. Each person with bipolar disorder can have different levels of depression and mania. Some may experience extreme versions that interfere with daily functioning. Others may experience slight changes noticeable only to those close to them.

If you think you, or someone you know, may have bipolar disorder, it’s essential to understand the four different types.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar 1

Bipolar I is diagnosed based on mania over depressive symptoms. Depression is not even needed to be diagnosed with bipolar I. However, it can exist. What is most important for diagnosis is that your symptoms of mania last for at least seven days and are severe enough to prevent you from fulfilling daily responsibilities at work, home, school, and socially. You may even need hospitalization during this time.

Bipolar 2

Bipolar II is diagnosed based on symptoms of both depression and mania. However, you do not achieve full mania. Instead, you experience hypomania, a form of mania that is much less severe but still noticeable by people close to you. Lasting about four days, you have extra energy, more than your “normal” self. This new energy level can appear as euphoria, excitability, and irritability. It is followed by about two weeks of depression.


Cyclothymia is when mania and depression occur in short timeframes. Normal moods appear too and don’t last longer than a couple of months. Mania and mild depression fluctuate often. A diagnosis of cyclothymia means cycling of symptoms must occur for two years in adults and one year in adolescents.

Bipolar Disorder (non-specified)

Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified is a catch-all category for symptoms that do not fall into the above categories. Examples may include medical conditions that trigger mania or depression or bipolar related to drug and alcohol misuse.

Assessing your symptoms helps your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms of Mania

To receive a diagnosis of bipolar mania, the changes in your behavior must be significant and last for a week or longer. Symptoms that represent manic behaviors include:

  • Talking a lot more than usual
  • Sleeping less or not at all
  • Participating impulsively in behaviors that lead to negative consequences include spending sprees, substance misuse, gambling, etc.
  • Fidgeting or feeling jittery
  • Feeling more important than others
  • Eating less or not at all
  • Hallucinating

Symptoms of Depression

Once the manic phase shifts towards depression, you will notice behavioral changes, some of which can signal a need for psychological intervention. Depressive symptoms may include:

  • Sleeping disturbances, such as sleeping most of the day
  • Feeling sad most of the time
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Feeling overwhelmed with completing ordinary tasks
  • Struggling to make decisions, concentrate, and stay focused
  • Thinking or talking about death or suicide

Who Gets Bipolar Disorder?

There is no way to tell who will experience bipolar disorder and who won’t. There are factors that make it more likely to have bipolar, though. One factor is genetics. If you have a close family member, like a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder, you may have the same genes.

It’s important to note that having the genes does not guarantee bipolar disorder. Genetics must interact with other risk factors, like misusing alcohol or drugs, experiencing a traumatic event, untreated mental health disorders, medical conditions, or high daily stress levels.

You may have all the risk factors but not meet the criteria for bipolar disorder. Or you may have one risk factor and meet the standards for Bipolar I or II. To ensure you get the correct diagnosis, there are essential steps you can follow.

Getting the Right Diagnosis

Getting the correct diagnosis starts with getting the right doctor. When it comes to mental health disorders, you should seek an assessment from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed mental health professional.

Do not expect a diagnosis to be determined upon first meeting. There are no blood tests or image scans to support diagnosing bipolar disorder. Credible doctors do not just take your word for it. Instead, they begin eliminating other causes and proving it is bipolar disorder. This process includes the following:

  • Comprehensive physical exam to eliminate any medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms
  • Comprehensive psychological exam to eliminate mental health disorders that may be responsible for your symptoms
  • Documenting and charting behaviors and mood swings over an extended period to see if they match the symptoms of bipolar disorder
  • Consultations with family and friends close to you who can accurately describe what symptoms they notice

With the correct diagnosis, you will be given a treatment plan based on your unique mental health needs.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder treatments involve methods to alleviate symptoms. There is not a cure for bipolar. There is no single pill that will make the mood swings stop entirely. But the symptoms can be controlled, and you can live a long, happy life. The key to bipolar recovery is implementing multiple forms of treatment that support all areas of your life, an integrative approach.

Medications play a significant role in bipolar recovery. If you have tried medications in the past without success, options like ketamine-assisted therapy can be explored with your psychiatrist. Medications work best when paired with individual therapy, group counseling, support groups, alternative treatments, holistic techniques, and family therapies.

Help for bipolar disorder is available. You can start the process today by giving us a call. Together, we can create a treatment plan that works.