What is depression?

Depression and bipolar disorder are not the same despite sharing some symptoms. Major depression can't lead to bipolar disorder.
Depression and bipolar disorder are not the same despite sharing some symptoms. Major depression can't lead to bipolar disorder.

Major depression can't lead to bipolar disorder. However, someone with an earlier diagnosis of clinical depression might later be rediagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Depression and bipolar disorder are not the same despite sharing some symptoms. Sometimes, depression is a symptom of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder may go through lethargy, feelings of worthlessness, and overwhelmingly low moments.

Depression is commonly experienced as a persistent feeling of sadness that can endure for weeks or months. The condition is unlike times when you may feel down only for a day or two or for clear situational causes. If you are diagnosed with depression, you may enjoy a complete recovery with proper treatment and support.

Signs and symptoms of depression

You may have depression if you've gone through some of the following for more than two weeks:

  • Extreme pessimism or hopelessness
  • Fatigue (low energy)
  • Irritability
  • Feeling helpless, worthless or guilty
  • Anxiety and persistent sadness
  • Low interest and loss of pleasure in your hobbies or usual activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme weight changes
  • Restlessness
  • Death thoughts or suicidal ideation, or attempts at suicide or self-damage
  • Body pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive issues with unknown causes that may not solve with treatment

Types of depressive disorders

Depression may occur in different forms depending on your circumstances. The different types of depressive disorders are:

  • Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia: multiple episodes of major depression for more than two years
  • Psychotic depression: severe depression and a form of psychosis (like delusions and hallucinations) at the same time 
  • Post-partum depression: a form of depression that affects women during pregnancy or after giving birth, with symptoms that may make daily activities difficult
  • Seasonal affective disorder: depression caused by the decrease in natural sunlight at the onset of the winter season; symptoms include weight gain, social withdrawal, and excessive sleep
  • Bipolar disorder: bipolar disorder is not the same as depression, but it is still classified as a depressive disorder because it causes a form of depression; bipolar disorder may cause episodes of extreme sadness and low mood

What causes depression?

Some factors associated with depression include:

  • Genetic inheritance: If you have close family members who have had depression, there may be a higher chance of you getting the condition.
  • Environment or life-changing events: Life-changing events like abuse, accidents, or living in a violent environment may cause some forms of depression.
  • Biochemistry: Chemical differences in the neurotransmitters in your brain may lead to depression. 
  • Personality: Low self-esteem, pessimism, or stress are associated with a higher chance of depression.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that affects an individual's mood, energy, and ability to function. People with bipolar disorder go through intense episodes of high and low moods. Such episodes can be sorted into two modes:

  1. Mania: also called hypomanic episodes, is characterized by excess happiness, optimism, or irritability.
  2. Depression: this is an episode of extreme sadness, apathy, or fatigue.

These episodes may go on for days and even weeks. But the person will usually return to their natural mood. From time to time, they may have mood fluctuations that last for some hours. A person with bipolar disorder can be treated and lead a full, productive life.

Other names used to refer to bipolar disorder include manic depression, manic depressive illness, manic depressive disorder, bipolar affective disorder, and bipolar mood disorder. Bipolar disorder may affect many different individuals.

Bipolar disorder is found in three types:

  1. Bipolar 1: characterized by extremely severe manic episodes; depressive episodes may also be present
  2. Bipolar 2:  people experience both depressive and hypomanic episodes, but manic episodes are milder than bipolar 1 and may even seem enjoyable
  3. Cyclothymic disorder: frequent mood changes between depressive and hypomanic episodes but noticeably less severe than in bipolar 1 and 2

Sometimes you may get symptoms of bipolar disorder that don't fall under any of the three types. That's called unspecified bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder may depend on whether the person is going through a manic or depressive episode. These episodes are more extreme than the normal feelings of sadness or happiness people without bipolar disorder may get.

When going through a manic episode, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • High energy and mood
  • Fast speech and racing thoughts
  • Loss of sleep
  • Aggressive and reckless behavior
  • High irritability
  • Exaggerated optimism
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor judgment
  • Increased feelings of self-importance

When going through a depressive episode, you may demonstrate:

  • Lack of interest in your usual activities
  • Prolonged sadness or irritability
  • Excess or complete loss of appetite
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Excessive sleep or lack of sleep
  • Anxiety, anger, and worry
  • Loss of concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Drops in school performance
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Suicidal thoughts

While the episodes of mania and depression may last for weeks or even months in adults, children and adolescents go through much shorter episodes. They may cycle between multiple manic and depressive episodes in one day.


Depression is a(n) __________ . See Answer

What causes bipolar disorder

There is no known specific cause of bipolar disorder. However, some factors can affect the emergence and nature of bipolar episodes. They include:

  • Genetic inheritance
  • Biochemical factors
  • Extreme life-changing or stressful events


Because of the many overlapping symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder, it's vital that you share all you can with your doctor to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and wrong treatment. If you suspect your child has depression or bipolar disorder, make sure they see a doctor. Children may show signs and symptoms of mental health issues differently from adults. Proper observation may be vital to make a diagnosis. Family and friends may also have helpful information for the doctor. Take all the help you can get.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/8/2022

American Psychiatric Association: "What Is Bipolar Disorder?", "What Is Depression?"

KidsHealth: "Bipolar Disorder."

NHS: "Overview - Bipolar disorder.", "Overview - Clinical depression."

The American Journal of Psychiatry: "Clinical Features of Bipolar Depression Versus Major Depressive Disorder in Large Multicenter Trials."

The National Institute of Mental Health: "Depression."