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Bipolar Disorder vs. Major Depressive Disorder

Thursday 25 November 2021
Mental Health
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents


I. Bipolar Disorder

a. Understanding Mania (and Hypomania)

b. The Other Extreme

c. Types of Bipolar Disorder

II. Major Depressive Disorder

a. Symptoms of Depression

b. Depression in Younger Children vs. Adults

III. Treating Bipolar and Major Depressive Disorder


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression) is a mental health condition characterized by severe mood swings. Your feelings may swing from extreme periods of energy to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. These mood swings can fluctuate back and forth several times a year. Between these mood swings, people with bipolar disorder often experience emotional symptoms as well, although this does not occur to everyone.

Currently, there is no cure for bipolar disorder, and this mental disorder often persists throughout your life. The good news is that atypical antipsychotics like  Abilify (aripiprazole) can be used to stabilize your mood and ease symptoms. [1]

a woman extremely happy with her arms raised above her

a. Understanding Mania (and Hypomania)

The extreme highs and euphoric energy you experience with bipolar disorder is often referred to as mania. Mania is distinguished from hypomania, which is typically less extreme. During periods of severe mania, a person with bipolar disorder may experience a break from reality (psychosis) that requires hospitalization. A typical manic or hypomanic episode will include three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Increased energy, agitation, and overall activity
  • Distorted and inflated sense of confidence
  • Less need for sleep
  • Heightened impulsiveness and poor decision-making
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts

If you are experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode, Abilify (aripiprazole) can be used to calm you down and relieve aggression or agitation. Abilify can be taken orally or by injection. Ask your doctor for more information on how Abilify can help with controlling manic episodes. [1] [2]

b. The Other Extreme

When a person with bipolar disorder has a mood swing to the other extreme, they may experience a major depressive episode. This extreme can be difficult to identify at first because sadness and feeling low is often a normal emotion. However, a major depressive episode causes symptoms that are severe enough to disrupt social activities, work, and relationships. According to experts, a major depressive episode includes five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
  • Tearfulness in children 
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in almost all activities
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Restlessness, fatigue, and loss of energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Indecisiveness and difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts about self-harm and suicide [1]

a person staring out of a window

c. Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be categorized into several types. These types do not indicate a difference in severity. Rather, they are separate diagnoses and should be treated accordingly.

Bipolar I Disorder: If you are diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, you have had at least one manic episode either before or after a hypomanic or major depressive episode. You may have also experienced psychosis.

Bipolar II Disorder: If you have been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, you have never experienced a manic episode, but you have had at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder: If you are diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, you have experienced periods of hypomania and depressive symptoms for at least two years (one year in children and teenagers).

Other: If your bipolar disorder is related to drug use, alcohol, or conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), Cushing’s disease, or stroke, you may be categorized separately. [1]

Major Depressive Disorder

Bipolar disorder can cause periods of depression, but major depressive disorder is a mental health condition of its own. Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder involves severe emotional troubles that can cause physical health complications and interfere with your everyday life. With long-term treatment with antipsychotics like Abilify and Rexulti (brexpiprazole), symptoms of clinical depression can be managed and reduced. [3]

a. Symptoms of Depression

When a person has clinical depression, they may experience angry outbursts, sleep disturbances, and fatigue nearly every day. This mental health condition may also cause symptoms which include:

  • Anxiety, restlessness, and agitation
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking, and remembering
  • Frequent or recurrent throughs about death and suicide
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in sexual intercourse, hobbies, and sport activities
  • Persistent sadness
  • Reduced appetite, weight loss, weight gain, or increased food cravings
  • Fixation on past failures [3]

a teenager wearing a backpack walking down the street

b. Depression in Younger Children vs. Adults

Clinical depression may appear differently in young children as opposed to adults. In adults, symptoms of depression tend to involve memory difficulties, personality changes, physical pain, and suicidal thoughts.

In younger children and teenagers, symptoms may manifest as clinginess, excessive worrying, refusal to attend school, and being underweight. This can translate to poor attendance or performance at school, persistent feelings of being misunderstood, heightened emotional sensitivity, and a tendency to find relief in recreational drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms that are preventing full enjoyment of life, speak with your doctor. [3]

Treating Bipolar and Major Depressive Disorder

Although the two conditions differ in many ways, bipolar and major depressive disorder can be treated with the same antipsychotic drug—Abilify (aripiprazole). This medication works by restoring balance to certain natural chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Abilify has been known to reduce the severity of psychosis, decrease the frequency of mood swings, and improve your concentration. [4] 

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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