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Bipolar and Depression Symptoms

Visit the BPhoenix Bipolar & Depression Message Board.

Bipolar (manic-depression) and depression are classified as mood disorders.

Depression is a low, sad state in which life seems dark and its challenges overwhelming. Functioning can be severely imparied, and the depressed individual often loses all interest in activities, becomes hopeless, and may even contemplate or commit suicide.

Mania, the opposite of depression, is a state of breathless euphoria, or at least frenzied energy, in which people may have an exaggerated belief that the world is theirs for the taking. As mania progresses, psychosis becomes more and more likely.

People with bipolar disorder ride an emotional roller coaster, swinging from the heights of elation to the depths of despair without external cause. The first episode may be either manic or depressive.

Manic episodes, typically lasting from a few weeks to several months, are generally shorter in duration and end more abruptly than major depressive episodes. In some cases, episodes of depression and elation may alternate regularly, with months or years of symptom-free normal functioning between the disordered mood states. Sometimes cases involve periods of "rapid cycling" in which the individual experiences two or more full cycles of mania and depression within a year without any intervening normal periods. Rapid cycling is relatively uncommon, but occurs more often among women than men.

Types of Depressive Disorders:

Major Depression:

Major depression is a horrible illness that can cause a person to suffer emotionally, physically, and socially. Depression is not the same thing as grief, though some symptoms are common to both. In order to receive this diagnosis, the individual must experience symptoms for a period of at least two weeks. Suicidal thoughts, hospitalization, and even psychosis are not uncommon.

Dysthymic Disorder:

Dysthymic disorder is a chronic disorder characterized by at least two years of mild-moderate depression. Individuals suffering from dysthymic disorder often report that they don't remember ever not feeling depressed. Most individuals with this disorder function relatively well, but usually have some difficulty managing the tasks and responsibilities of daily life.

Types of Bipolar Disorders:

Bipolar Type 1:

To receive a diagnosis of Bipolar 1, a person must experience at least one manic or mixed episode. Almost always these episodes alternate with periods of major depression. Often, though not always, the episodes may be followed by periods of normal mood. Psychotic symptoms are not uncommon, and hospitalization is often necessary. Rapid cycling may or may not be present.

Bipolar Type 2:

Bipolar 2 involves alternating periods of major depression and hypomania. The depression is often more chronic in nature, and some studies show a higher incidence of suicide in those suffering from this form of bipolar. Rapid cycling may or may not be present.


Cyclothymia involves alternating episodes of mild depression and hypomania. Many people suffering from this form of bipolar disorder notice very few periods of normal mood in between episodes. Rapid cycling is the norm, with many people cycling weekly, daily, or even hourly. Some experts believe those with cyclothymia have a high risk of going on to develop one of the more severe forms of bipolar disorder.

Rapid Cycling:

Rapid cyclers are those that have experienced four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, depression or mixed states in a twelve month period. Some people may even cycle several times a day, so quickly that their ups and downs are often confused with mixed states. Women and children are much more likely to be rapid cyclers than men.

This is often a very difficult form of bipolar to treat, as rapid cycling patients are less likely to respond to traditional medications. Approximately 15 percent of bipolar persons are rapid cyclers.

All information contained in this web site is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your medical doctor or psychiatrist.
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This Site Updated 04/09/11