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Mental Health: Depression vs. Bipolar Disorder

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Everyone experiences feeling sad at some point in their life; however, it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling so that you can seek help if your sadness becomes something you’re consistently dealing with. If you continue to feel sad every day for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression.  Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed
  • Change in appetite or loss of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Irritability or restlessness

Often mistaken for depression, bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition that is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Contrary to public opinion, it is not just mood swings between happy and sad throughout the day. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are much more extreme, and come in cycles that usually last at least one week. Bipolar disorder describes a pattern of depressed episodes (which include depressed mood, changes in the amount of sleeping and eating, crying spells, excessive guilt, low self-worth and sometimes thoughts of death) and manic episodes. The best known symptom of mania is an extreme increase in energy and happiness, but in some people, it may present as an increase in irritability and anger. Some other symptoms are racing thoughts, talking a lot, inflated self-esteem and distractibility. A person may also feel the need to engage, often impulsively, in high-risk behaviors.

While both illnesses include episodes of extreme sadness and are best treated by a counselor or therapist, the types of medication that are used to treat them are very different. If you have any concerns or are experiencing any symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder, it’s important that you talk to your primary care physician, or reach out to specialists at Cone Health’s Behavioral Health Hospital. Cone Health Behavioral Health provides an exceptional network of both inpatient and outpatient care and behavioral health specialists dedicated to caring for patients with bipolar disorder and depression, helping return them to everyday function and restored quality of life.

Spokesperson Background:

Laura Davis is a nurse practitioner at Cone Health’s Behavioral Health Hospital. She received both a Bachelor of Nursing and a Master of Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2002 and 2013, respectively. Laura is currently pursuing a psychiatric nurse practitioner post master’s certificate from the University of North Carolina.