Jean Huber, LCSW

Distinguishing Between Bipolar and Unipolar Depression

It’s weird. Some days you wake up and feel so down and sluggish. Even doing simple things becomes impossible.

Yet, there are other times when you have all this energy and you don’t know what to do with it.

Is this depression or something else?

It could very well be depression. But there is a distinct difference between what’s known as bipolar and unipolar depression. Both are mood disorders caused by a neurochemical imbalance, which can lead to either sadness, mania, or both.

If you’re having trouble distinguishing between the two issues, consider two key points that can help clarify.

1. Consistency

The first key point to make when trying to understand the difference between bipolar and unipolar disorder is consistency. Why?

Because, with bipolar disorder, you can be all over the map. These “highs” and “lows” can be either energizing or depressing. When you feel the depressive side of bipolar disorder, you feel sad and have low energy. When you’re on the energizing (manic) side, it seems like you’re invincible and nothing can stand in your way. This back and forth can be really hard to deal with as you swing between two very extremely different emotional states.

With unipolar disorder, on the other hand, you always experience a low and depressed state of mind. There is no swinging back towards mania. Of course, always feeling low and a lack of energy isn’t great either. However, taking note of the consistency in contrast with disparity can help when distinguishing between bipolar and unipolar disorder.

2. Focus and Libido

The second key to consider is the matter of libido and focus. Think about it for a moment. When you’re depressed, are you able to maintain focus or have any interest in sex? That may sound like a strange question, but it’s a helpful one when trying to understand the difference between bipolar and unipolar disorder.

People who are depressed often report that it’s hard for them to focus on anything. In fact, their depression may be so overwhelming that things that require concentration, such as work, become very hard to accomplish. Plus, with unipolar depression, you often lose interest in things that you once enjoyed. These include not just your hobbies or recreational activities. In extreme cases, it can include sex as well.

Whereas, with bipolar disorder, as noted above, you experience time periods of intense mania. This causes you to be hyper-focused. And that often carries over into also having a heightened sex drive.

How Do These Two Conditions Affect Your Life?

A similarity between bipolar and unipolar disorder is that both have a big impact on your life. They make it difficult to hold down a job or have meaningful personal relationships. These problems only add to the misery you feel in the depressive state of bipolar disorder or with unipolar disorder, throughout.

Yet, it’s important to know that it’s not your fault. What you’re facing is a neurochemical imbalance that’s causing your brain to “misfire,” for lack of a better word.

However, there is good news. With help, you can find relief.

What Can Be Done about Bipolar and Unipolar Disorder?

There are many things about both bipolar and unipolar disorder that are different. One causes you to feel either intense mania or depression. While the other makes it always difficult to experience things you find pleasurable. However, both are still considered to be a mood disorder caused by a neurochemical imbalance.

The only way to effectively address either bipolar or unipolar depression is to get professional treatment. You need the support of a therapist who understands these disorders and how they affect you. They’ll be able to help you understand what’s happening to you and guide you through the treatment process.

Here’s the tricky part, though. If you are either experiencing the depressive state of bipolar disorder or are stuck in the sadness of unipolar depression, you can’t just snap out of it. And depressive feelings tend to not be very motivational to get your into a therapist’s office. Someone close to you usually has to be the catalyst and your support.

So, the first step to relief is to confide in someone you trust—a family member or close friend—and allow them to help you.

Please, believe me, even though it may seem hopeless now, it is possible to find relief. That’s why you should consider getting help for depression treatment from a professional who understands both bipolar and unipolar disorder.

I would be delighted to help you find the relief you’re seeking. Contact me today or read more about my approach to depression treatment by clicking HERE.

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