Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder – Similarities and Differences

Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder  pic
Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Image: webmd.com

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.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Types of Bipolar Disorder pic
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Image: WebMD.com

As a privately practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Lester Sandman focuses on anxiety and mood disorders that have resisted prior treatment. Lester Sandman, MD, has treated numerous patients with bipolar disorders.

The term “bipolar disorder” refers to a particular form of mental illness that is characterized by extreme highs and lows of mood. The severity of these moods and the frequency with which they alternate determines a patient’s specific diagnosis.

Bipolar I disorder involves at least one major depressive episode as well as one or more manic or mixed episode. Diagnostic standards define a mixed episode as the presence of both manic and depressive symptoms almost daily for a minimum of one week. Because of the severity of mania present in bipolar I, it stands out as the most severe of the bipolar disorders.

Bipolar II, by contrast, presents as at least one major depressive episode and one or more episodes of hypomania, a less severe form of elevated mood. The hypomania of bipolar II disorder interferes with functioning to a lesser degree than full mania and often evades the patient’s recognition. Upon further consideration, however, the patient may be able to remember periods of abnormally high energy, irritability, or changes in concentration ability.

Patients with less frequent episodes of hypomania and less severe periods of depression may be suffering from cyclothymia, which causes such fluctuations over the course of at least two years. This is a less severe form of bipolar disorder, while rapid-cycling bipolar disorder causes a minimum of four episodes of mania, hypomania, depression, or mixed episodes within a single year. Individuals who experience similar symptoms but whose presentation does not fit within a standard bipolar diagnosis may fall into the category of bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS).

Professional Mental Health Care Is Important for Bipolar Disorder

A psychiatrist in Bellevue, Washington, Dr. Lester Sandman holds licenses to practice psychiatry in four states. Often, Dr. Lester Sandman works with patients who have explored prior treatments, such as medication and counseling, but have not achieved the desired results. Lester Sandman, MD, treats a broad array of conditions, including bipolar disorder.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder often appears in the teen years or early adulthood, with approximately half of all cases manifesting in individuals before the age of 25. While no cure exists for bipolar disorder, proper treatment can help individuals manage symptoms over the long term. Effective bipolar medications, including mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and atypical anti-psychotics, are available, but not all individuals respond to these medications in the same way. In addition, since other mental health or addictive disorders can coexist with bipolar disorder, individuals may need to try different combinations of medications to find out what works best for them.

NIMH recommends that individuals with bipolar disorder seek out a mental health professional to get the care they need. Once in treatment, individuals should develop awareness of the warning signs of a shift into mania or depression, take medications regularly, and anticipate gradual relief of symptoms.

Mood Charts for Tracking Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Over the course of his career as a psychiatrist in the Puget Sound area, Dr. Lester Sandman has incorporated a number of approaches into his treatment of individuals with psychiatric disorders. When working with patients with bipolar disorder and other recurrent mood disorders, Lester Sandman, MD, often recommends use of a tool known as a mood chart. Mood charts provide physicians with information that may assist them in developing a treatment plan.

Patients fill out mood charts by documenting their overall mood on a given day, as well as their “highest” and “lowest” moods on that day. As patients fill out their mood charts over time, the charts begin to provide patterns for the physician to interpret. Mood charts are also useful tools for tracking medications’ impact on both overall mood and mood swings. Although mood charts have traditionally been filled out using pen and paper, a number of smartphone apps are available, many of which take only a few seconds per day to complete.