Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder – Similarities and Differences

Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder  pic
Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Dr. Lester Sandman earned his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and now practices psychiatry in Bellevue and Kirkland, Washington. In his work with patients, Dr. Lester Sandman focuses on mood and anxiety disorders.

Major depression and bipolar disorder are both types of mood disorders. These common conditions annually affect 16 million and 3 million American adults, respectively. They also tend to be misunderstood and confused with each other. The similarities and differences between major depression and bipolar disorder include the following:

Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycles of manic and depressed states, with moods typically swinging back and forth between the two extremes. Manic states often involve intense feelings of excitement, irritability, or self-importance. Sometimes people become increasingly reckless during manic states. However these states can be more subtle with primarily irritability or anxiety along with insomnia & feeling “wired”.

During depressive states, many people experience a lack of pleasure or interest in daily life. Symptoms also include fatigue, pervasive sadness, and issues with sleep. There are also mixed states that combine elements of both mania and depression.

Major depression, unlike bipolar disorder, is a unipolar condition. People living with depression do not generally experience the symptoms of manic states, only depressive ones. These symptoms are sometimes accompanied by persistent physical symptoms that do not disappear with treatment.

The more severe conditions are thought to be “biologically driven” with a strong genetic component. But they can be easily confused with psychological mood states which are experienced as more in- proportion to events that are driving them (such as grief).

People of all ages experience both of these common mood disorders. Both are also treatable. Many patients with bipolar disorder or depression experience positive outcomes with medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. If the mood problem is primarily psychologically driven, then talk therapy is the main treatment. If the mood problem is biologically driven, talk therapy can help manage symptoms but medications will be necessary to fully control the condition.


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A licensed psychiatrist, Dr. Lester Sandman claims more than 20 years of experience in the treatment of patients coping with mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Sandman was educated at the University of Washington, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Psychology in 1974; and at Antioch University, where he received a Master of Arts in Psychology in 1977. After earning his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1986, Dr. Sandman completed an internship and residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Following the completion of his of his Residency, Dr. Lester Sandman served as a Senior Teaching Fellow for the Department of Psychiatry at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, and as an Administrative Chief Resident at Walter Reed Medical Center. From 1989 to 1993, Dr. Sandman served as an Instructor for Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, teaching medical students, interns, and physician assistants at three hospitals. Over the course of his tenure with the military, Dr. Lester Sandman was recognized on several occasions for excellence and dedication above and beyond the call of duty. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Dr. Sandman was deployed to Saudi Arabia as the 86th Evacuation Hospital’s Chief of Psychiatry Service. His support of the Army’s 18th Corps during the war earned him the Army Commendation Medal. While serving as the Chief of the Department of Psychiatry in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Dr. Sandman received the Meritorious Service Medal for his implementation of programs that resulted in budgetary savings of $1 million. In addition, Dr. Lester Sandman was awarded an additional Army Commendation Medal for his work as the Chief of Inpatient Services for the Department of Psychiatry at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado. Dr. Sandman moved to the state of Washington in 1993, where he has lived since, and began his private practice in Bellevue. He also at various times worked for Social Security Disability Services, and Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland. Since 1998, Dr. Lester Sandman has devoted his time exclusively to his private practice, where he specializes in medication management for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in addition to providing consultations services for local primary-care physicians.

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