When I was 11 or 12, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). At the time, this diagnosis seemed accurate but as the years passed, it seemed that something more was wrong. I switched therapists and psychiatrists countless times and they all said the same thing. My mom also voiced her concerns to them, but our cries went unheard. I tried numerous antidepressants that either didn’t work or only helped for a short while, until finally a suicide attempt led to me being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2015. While I was relieved to have a proper diagnosis, I was scared of what it meant. I was also pissed at every therapist and psychiatrist who didn’t listen to me.
In November of 2015, I published a blog post opening up about living with bipolar disorder. I was terrified of receiving backlash, but this blog post would set in motion a site dedicated to mental health. For so long, I wondered how so many people who studied this very thing could have missed the signs. After doing my own research, I discovered that it’s common for people who actually have bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed with major depression. Today I want to talk about bipolar disorder and major depression. I’ll be discussing symptoms, differences, similarities, and treatment options.
While people with bipolar disorder also experience low periods of depression, the main difference between depression and bipolar disorder is that with bipolar disorder, individuals have manic episodes. During a manic episode, a person experiences an unusual elevated energy. Other symptoms include:
- Decreased need for sleep
- Impulsive decision making
- Racing thoughts
- Inflated self-esteem, confidence or grandiosity
- Lack of concentration
- Starting new projects with no way of finishing them
Someone with clinical depression doesn’t experience mania. Symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Sleep changes
- Appetite or weight changes
- Low energy levels
- Loneliness or isolation
- Continuous sad or empty feelings
- Trouble concentrating
- Aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Sometimes people with bipolar disorder get misdiagnosed with major depression because when bipolar disorder is in a depressive episode, it mirrors symptoms of MDD. It can be difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder if a person has only been experiencing depression. Treatment for bipolar disorder and depression might consist of a combination of medication and therapy. If you’re experiencing symptoms of either of these disorders, it’s important that you seek professional help.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, know that you are not alone. Oftentimes when we’re struggling, we feel like no one understands. I’m here to tell you I see you; I hear you.