Mood Disorders 101

By | March 9, 2018

I’m a big believer that all of us who have mood disorders, or know someone who does, need to understand the definition of the illnesses before dealing with symptoms. Mood disorders make it difficult for a person to regulate their moods- which is why so many people with depression often hear that they should just get control of their emotions and not be so sensitive and negative!

There are two types of mood disorders: Unipolar Depression and Bipolar Disorder. Both are considered genetic disorders and they share many symptoms. There is also a form of depression called situational depression, where a person becomes depressed due to a specific event and then goes back to a stable mood once the event and its aftermath is over. This article focuses on Unipolar Depression and Bipolar Depression.

What Are the Main Differences between the Two Depressions?

The biology of these disorders is different, effective treatments are different, and in some respects the symptoms are also different. Both forms of depression can be very severe and carry a risk of suicide. However, the underlying difference is that people with Bipolar Depression also experience episodes of either mania or hypomania.

If you imagine a puzzle with a hundred pieces, depression itself would take up half of the pieces in Bipolar Depression. The rest would be puzzle pieces that represent Bipolar disorder symptoms that can go along with the depression including mania, a high level of anxiety, aggression, ADHD and OCD symptoms, psychosis, rapid cycling, agitation, and often mixed episodes. Outside of mania, advanced Depression can share a lot of these symptoms, but it’s quite rare.

Diagnostic Differences

Most cases of Bipolar Depression often have excessive sleeping and a lot of daytime fatigue. There is an increased appetite and weight gain. In contrast, people with Depression tend to wake up often throughout the night and may also experience early morning awakening (e.g. waking up at 4:30 and being unable to return to sleep. Although some people who experience Depression may have increases in appetite and weight gain, it is more common to have a loss of appetite and weight loss. Bipolar Depression is much more likely to be accompanied by stronger symptoms of anxiety. One-half to two-thirds of people with Bipolar Depression have a co-occurring anxiety disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder or social anxiety disorder. And, of course, this is all complicated with the extra symptoms such as mania and psychosis that come with Bipolar Depression. Treatment-wise, the main difference is how a person with Bipolar Depression responds to medications.

JULIE A. FAST, best selling author of Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder and Get it Done When You’re Depressed is a critically acclaimed six-time author, national speaker, and sought after expert in the fields of bipolar disorder and depression. Julie was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder in 1995 at the age of thirty-one, after she had unknowingly lived with the disorder for over fourteen challenging and chaotic years. She regularly experiences mood swings, especially depression and uses the same treatment strategies she writes about in her books in order to continue her outstanding success as an author- even while struggling with bipolar disorder daily. Julie thrives on helping people with bipolar disorder (and those who love them) manage mood disorders so that they can live well in spite of the illness. To learn more about effectively managing bipolar disorder visit: