Bipolar depression, sometimes known as manic depression, is a mental health disorder characterized by episodes of intense mood swings between depressive lows and manic highs. Periods of mania or depression can last anywhere from a few days to weeks or months. Bipolar depression is very common, with over 5.7 million adults in America living with this condition. Despite this fact, there are still many common misconceptions out there about the disorder.

Most people go through mood swings now and again – so, what makes people with bipolar depression different? The manic highs and depressive lows of bipolar depression are extremely different from common mood swings. Mood swings in those with bipolar depression can cause extreme shifts in energy, sleep, reliability, and judgment. Periods of intense depression and mania can last for weeks at a time.

There are four major types of bipolar depression – but what are they and what’s the difference?

  • Bipolar I – characterized by manic episodes that last 7 days or more, OR send you to the hospital for care. People with bipolar I also go through periods of depression that last two or more weeks on average. Some will have episodes with only mania, and some will have episodes with mania and depression.
  • Bipolar II – long periods of depression as well as long periods of boosted mood. However, the highs aren’t as intense as with bipolar I.
  • Cyclothymic disorder – many periods of elevated mood and depression. Symptoms typically last for months at a time, but are not severe enough to be considered manic or depressive episodes.

People with bipolar depression are not always in periods of mania or depression. Many people with the condition will experience long periods of calm, balanced behavior. It is also possible to experience periods of mania and depression at the same time. The cycles of mania and depression are unpredictable, and do not typically happen in regular cycles. Not everyone with bipolar experiences symptoms the same way, as with any other medical condition.

A bipolar depression diagnosis can be frightening, but bipolar is a very manageable condition with a stable regimen of medication and therapy. If you or a loved one are living with bipolar depression, clinical research may benefit you. Sign up here to learn more.