Difference Between Bipolar/Depression

Updated on November 21, 2006
N.G. asks from Southampton, MA
18 answers

I have a Fiance who suffers from depression. I am just wondering what the difference between Bipolar/Depression is because I am starting to think he is Bipolar. He is on a medication for depression. I mentioned this to him and he got very upset with me for even mentioning it. I don't think it's a terrible thing, I just want him to be getting the correct medicine and maybe his moodswings will improve. I love him dearly, but I don't know if I can take the moodswings any longer. Anyone have info/experience with this would be greatly appreciated.

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L.M.

answers from Boston on

I am a mother(28)of two children. I am Bipolar with depression.
I take prozac 40mg once daily. Works well for me. All I can say is he has to talk to the doc.Thats the only way it can be fixed.Hope I helped.L.

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K.C.

answers from Boston on

Bipolar and manic/depressive syndrome are the same, but different from regular depression.

Bipolar (manic/depressive) is where someone will have extreme manic phases, they almost feel high. On top of the world. Extremely happy with lots of energy. That will be followed by extreme lows, where they can barely pull themselves out of bed in the morning.

Bipolar, as I understand it, is harder to treat, because everyone responds differently to different meds. So, it takes docs longer to get the meds right. As opposed to depression, where usually it can be treated easier.

All depression becomes worse if the person drinks alcohol, and the drugs become, somewhat, ineffective. Hope this helps.

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A.A.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi N.,

I am Bipolar II so I have done a lot of research on this subject. A good website to check is www.bipolar.com. It even has a section for family and friends and how to cope/help.

http://www.bipolar.com/about_bipolar_disorder.html

There are 2 types of bipolar. (Actually, I think there are technically 4 but these are the 2 common)

Bipolar I - Will have one or more manic or mixed episodes and one or more major depressive episodes. Depressive episodes can last weeks or months. A person may be excessively happy, constantly moving, talking fast. They'll be full of energy. Then later, be extremely depressed.

Bipolar II - One or more major depressive episodes with at leat least one hypomanic episode. Hypomanic is similar to manic, except it is less severe. This is also called manic depressive.

In both, there may be periods of normal functioning between episodes. Living with Bipolar is very difficult and can be hard to even consider at first. I had a very hard time accepting my diagnosis so it may be hard for him to even think about being Bipolar. It is important he have support, though. I know it can be trying. Bipolar is treatable though so medication is very important. I really don't have a suggestion on how to talk to him about it. Since you are concerned, I hope he eventually will discuss it with you.

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J.P.

answers from New York on

There is a fine line between many mental health "diagnoses"...text book definitions are not always how these disorders manifest themselves in individuals. Everyone has unique life experiences; their chemistry is different, their stress levels and environmental stimulation are variable. And most of all, as humans...you must remember that everything is relative. By that, I mean, you might think he is great, you are great, everything is great....BUT, he might actually be depressed and just hiding it, coping with it, whatever. And then it can also happen the other way around. ANYWAY, depression is when you are tired, irritable, cannot seem to enjoy what you 'normally' might enjoy, and might feel like crying; a very bleak , pessimistic outlook. Or, you could get VERY depressed and be "catatonic", which means you really do not even interact with anyone or anything...pretty much numb. I know, I am rambling...OK, bipolar is just what it sounds like...bi=two, polar=end or extreme. Two extremes. It does cycle. You can experience mania, which can exhibit itself in many ways...sleeplessness, excessive activity, irritability, poor/radical decision-making, false sense of grandeur...you feel immortal or untouchable...it doesn't have to necessarily be anything crazy like driving fast and furious...remember, everything is relative. If you are naturally a conservative person that does not drink, smoke, or party...mania could be just going out and getting drunk, buying some cigarettes, having risky sex and not coming home until 4 am on a morning you have to get up (if you go to sleep at all) and go to work. These swings must last for a couple of weeks at least to truly be diagnosed as bipolar...like one month, you are pretty stable, then all of a sudden, you get really tired and depressed and it lasts for a couple weeks or so, then, all of a sudden, it changes, the depression goes away and you find yourself in a whole new bright world that sends you spinning in a different direction. Again, the swings can last a couple weeks, a few months, etc. if not controlled. A psychiatrist would have to prescribe meds and watch for signs and symptoms of each phase to determine how quickly the person cycles and how to adjust the meds. The weather/seasons can also affect mood swings. Men have a hard time dealing with this type of stigma and so they want to self medicate or deny there is a problem. If you can have him journal his feelings, what is going on to affect moods, etc. then a doctor can help diagnose him accurately. Many meds that are for depression are also used for anxiety and mood swings. drugs are not necessarily always used for what they are labelled as (off label use). For example...topamax is an anti-seizure med, but is also used to prevent migraines. I don't know I am saying a lot and it might be vague...but everyone is different and there is no real magical definition or prescription that helps everyone be "normal". Email me if you want to chat.

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D.T.

answers from Portland on

N.,
Hi there. Just a quick question before I try to attempt to say if there is a possibility for bipolar or not. What are his mood swings like, is he just depressed all hte time and some times okay, or does he have higher swings as well? What I mean by higer swings is, does he get so energetic and excited one day or even a few minutes and then crash really hard back to the depression? BiPolar is a very tough disorder to diagnose. The best way to help the doctors figure it out would be to keep a mood log on him. Write down what swings he has and when and how severe. This way they have soemthing to look back on and can work from there. I have BiPolar disorder, so I know first hand how hard it can be on those around me, however, I also know how hte disorder makes a person feel. So my best advice would be to keep communication as open as possible, be a patient as you can be and keep a journal or some type of log for yourself to help the doctors recognize the symptoms. If you have any specific questions or just need to vent, please feel free to contact me on email at [email protected]____.com, I will be here in any way I can. Hope things get a little easier for you and your fiance. Keep me posted on how it's going. D.

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C.S.

answers from Portland on

Hi,
Bipolar is when they have highs and lows,one min there real happy with a lot of energy and the net there in a bad mood and snap at the littlest thing.Depressun is just being down and tere are real good meds out there if you think the meds hes on is not working a lot of times they need to adjust streath due to a lot of them poop out.I hope this helps....iam here if you need me....C.

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J.E.

answers from New York on

Yes there is a big diffrence does he get soo manic that he goes over the edge buying or doing something totally outragouse
or just the opposite the manic is a big sign in bipolar people

R.A.

answers from Providence on

You sound like an intelligent person, I am sure you are aware that this disease is not curable, nor is it predictable. There are risks just like any disease one might have. With these risks you have a choice to either take the chance, despite the odds to lead a normal life, or hide away and dismiss them. Living with a person that has a mental illness is difficult for the most part, however, it can be the most inspiring and challenging one. People living with this disease have a hard time establishing any significant relationship, let alone trust the other person to support them through the good times, and the bad times. They hate to be confronted, but at the same time, they fear that they are alone in their fight. You have to decide which person you are, are you one that takes a chance, or one that is scared to risk it. If you truly love this man, and are excited for the future you have, then you have made your choice. I cannot say that with the proper medication and counseling that his mood swings will improve. It is important for you to find out as much as you can about these diseases, so that you are prepared enough to know what is going on with him, so that you can encourage and support him through the tough times. I hope that this has been helpful to you.

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D.

answers from New York on

My roommate in college was bipolar. It was extremely difficult to handle this. She had extreme highs and lows. It was very hard on my and my other roommates the last year of college. For a while she ended up in the hospital every year (4 yrs) in the spring because of her illness. You need to decide if this is something you want to live with for the rest of your life. If he gets on the proper meds it will make it better, but this is something he will life with the rest of his life and yours. Make sure you truly want to deal with this before you get married. Not that I'm saying not to marry him, just make sure that it's something you can handle.

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M.L.

answers from New York on

Depression is depression...you constantly feel down, unhappy, sad, low self esteem, unappreciated...suicidal. Bipolar you get periods of depressive states that can last from weeks to months. Then all of a sudden you get euphoric feeling...a super high period where you feel fearless, super happy, energetic, like you've had a pot or two of coffee. Yu can stay up for days and nights on end...requiring little or no sleep at all. During this time you do stupid things, like driving really fast just because you want to see how fast yoou can go, jumping out of a window to see if you can bounce...just abnormal things. Then all of a sudden you plumit into a deep depression. Its a viscious cycle that can only be controlled by medication and serious therapy.

Hope this helps.
M.

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G.M.

answers from Providence on

My daughter is on medication called Resperidone (she's 14)it is used for Bipolar people, although she is not diagnosed as Bipolar she has the moodswings and un-controlable outburst. She gets so angry at times over the littlest thing and she can't control herself, this medication has helped control her moodswings and outbursts. They recently tried lowering her dose (they don't like using this med for kids because they don't know if it causes diabeties when they get older) but she has had an outburst since they lowered it. You should ask his doctor about this medication it seems to work for her.

G.

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M.W.

answers from Boston on

You should type in the keyword BIPOLAR and go to web sites that can tell you more about it. I feel that no matter what med or meds a person takes, they will still have the mood swings or become a zombie who sleeps alot. Trying to get someone to see that they have symptoms of Bipolar can be tricky.

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M.K.

answers from Springfield on

Hi N.,
...usually the doctor will tell you that depression is " a total feeling of helplessness, overwhelming feelings of gloom, despair, etc. Bipolar depression is usually that but they also have feelings of up...like they are god like, almost high...they get up, clean obsessivly, try to do 1000 things at once...hyper, like they took speed....and they are on a high..then they crash...and become depressed again...it cycles like that, unless they take the proper meds...I am not sure what he is on...usually the Dr. will try different types of medication until they adjust it to fit the person who takes it....does he go to counseling also? Counseling usually helps along with the meds.....Let me just offer you this bit of advice, just make sure...and I say this from experience, that you are ready for a life of this....it is a VERY hard life....my ex husband suffers (still) from depression...it was so bad he would not get out of bed...he could not work, we lost everything...he was in and out of hospitals, had ect's (electro convulsive shock therapy treatments - they usually do this when the patient is so badly depressed that he is sucidal) they tried everything....he was in the hospital for months at a time...it was really sad.....but I could not take it nor could the children...so we divorced...he is better now, the kids see him, and he takes lots of meds and is finally working...I don't want to scare you...but I simply want to let you know...that it is a really difficult life to live...with someone who is depressed....they need to be taken care of...like a child...hopefully your fiance is not that severly depressed...If you need to talk feel free to contact me....I hope I did'nt scare you too much....I just know what your going through, and what that kind of life is all about....good luck...
M.
[email protected]____.com

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H.C.

answers from New London on

Hi N.,

If your fiance is seeing a psychiatrist, they will figure out if he is bipolar or if he is just dealing with depression. Bipolar disorder can manifest itself with great highs. Not sleeping, fast talking, wild spending, grandiose ideas, reckless behavior. Then it cycles into lows. Deep depression, oversleeping, very sad, feelings of harming themselves. But there are different degrees of bipolar. Some are not as cut and dry as what I described above. I was brought up in a family with a mother and sister with severe bipolar. I myself have depression. You can be very depressed, sleeping problems, moodswings, etc.
If you think he might have bipolar, you can always ask him if you can join him to one of his therapy appointments and bring up this subject. But understand that finding out you are bipolar sometimes can be a lifechanging experience. That is maybe why he got so upset with you.
I hope this helps.

H.

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C.J.

answers from Springfield on

Hi N.,
I think it is great that you are being supportive and trying to help your fiance. I suffer from depression and am on medication. My husband is very supportive and tries to help the best he can. Some days I am worse than others and he gets fruustrated with me but he sticks it out. I think the best thing you can do is research the illness. Try webmd.com, they offer lots of info and links. Bi-polar is alot different than depression. People with bi-polar have extreme highs annd lows. When they are high they have lots of energy, think they can do anything, usually behave without thoughts to conciquences* (spending lots of money, driving wrecklessly, etc). The lows are really bad too (putting themselves down, staying in bed, etc.). Maybe if you get some information he might look at it. I wish you the best. If you have any questions please email me, I'll be happy to help.

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C.K.

answers from Boston on

I have a few friends that have depression, and a few who are bipolar. The main difference is the manic personality change. It's uncontrollable and without treatment it certainly wont get better on its own. However, it's possible that your fiance is simply on the wrong medication or dosage which is causing this. He needs to realize that something isn't working and go see his doctor. Sometimes just switching drugs can make all the difference, but he should talk to his doctor about his manic symptoms. These days the medications are so great you'd never know there was anything wrong once you get on treatment. I hope this helps a little. Depression is really hard on the ones you love. I, myself, take Wellbutrin, an anit-depressent because I have MS and the drugs I take for the MS can trigger depression. Because I'm a SAHM to an 18month old the LAST thing I need is to get depressed! So I take it preventatively and I guess it's working, I feel pretty good! I"m a big scrapbooker too, but never get around to it. However, I'm a professional shopper at Michael's and AC Moore. I have a ton of scrapbook stuff that is all really nicely organized...next to the ton of pictures waiting to be scrapbooked! I too am a voracious reader. I'm reading Lisey's Story, Stephen King's newest. Just started it. Also reading March, by G.Brooks. Just won the Pulitzer. Great book. OK, sorry to ramble. Good luck to you and your family!

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T.M.

answers from Buffalo on

hi N.,

from what i have learned, depression is when one has periods of extreme lows, but when not in a depressed state, they are at a baseline or kinda normal state..whereas if someone has bipolar, they have both extreme highs and lows (really depressed one moment, really happy/excited etc. the next) bipolar is recognizable because of theses extreme highs which are kinda manic like, like high energy, and feelings that the depression is gone and that the person is able to do anything!
i hope this info helps!

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T.S.

answers from Buffalo on

Depression is in simpilest form being very sad, where as bi polar is very high ups of mania and very low lows of depression. Bipolar mood swings can be from minute to minute or over very long periods of time.

While approaching someone about such very sensitive issues they more often thern not get very upset. My suggestion to you is to either talk to his doctor, or explain your concern if he allows you to.

Best of luck.

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