In this day and age, humans have come to the conclusion that illness and pain are not just of physical nature. Mental health problems have increased in rates over the past decade, especially among young adults. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders that can debilitate a person if remained untreated. Almost everyone has been touched by depression, if not by themselves, their family or close ones experienced it. In the earliest accounts, mental illnesses were discussed as a spiritual rather than a physical condition. Priests would deal with such health conditions considering them demonic possession. Decades of research on neurobiology and depression treatments have improved the ability to adequately manage this disease. Depression comes in all forms and subtypes, from major depression to persistent and perinatal depression. Bipolar disorder and major depression are two very similar mood disorders that are often confused and misdiagnosed, yet they have some key differences in signs, symptoms, and treatment processes.
Major depression, also known as unipolar depressive disorder, is a condition characterized by periods of pervasive sadness, lack of interest in life, and a low mood. A person suffering from depression cannot suppress it and combat the crippling effects of their mental state. Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is another brain condition characterized by mood swings that alternate between depressive lows and manic highs and may last for days or weeks. Both are complex diseases and can cause numerous triggers, depending on conditions relating to body and mind. Factors that contribute to depression include abuse, stress, genetics, brain chemistry, certain medical conditions, as well as substances use and abuse. Once a person falls into depression, several episodes can occur with symptoms resurfacing most of the day. The most common ones are irritability, frustration, melancholy, sleep disturbances, fatigue, eating disorders, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, feelings of unworthiness and helplessness, and unexplained physical pain. These symptoms are severe enough to cause serious problems with daily activities, work, and relationships.
In the case of bipolar disorder, the indications also occur; however, the depressive state is only one condition of bipolar disorder. Manic periods have their distinct symptoms, which involve abnormally elevated or irritable mood, hyperactivity, impulsivity, recklessness, inflated self-esteem, and decreased need for rest and sleep. Hypomania is another state of the elevated period, less severe and noticeable. Environmental factors play an important role in causing this type of disorder, and the genetic predisposition is more prominent in patients with bipolar disorder than in unipolar depression. While the highs of the manic period may be quite enjoyable compared to the depressive phase, they are also very dangerous. The person can take risks and make decisions that are not thought out or reasoned enough.
In general, there are two main types of manic depression. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by manic or mixed episodes that can last for at least a week. The symptoms of both depressive and manic periods are very out of character for a person and often require immediate hospitalization. Bipolar II is distinguished by a pattern of depressive episodes, mixed with hypomanic episodes, without manic episodes. Some bipolar disorders do not necessarily imply a history of depression or have a specific pattern but do meet the criteria for abnormal mood swings.
Unipolar depressive disorder is classified into mild, moderate, and severe types. Both psychotic and melancholic depressions are considered severe forms of depression. A patient with melancholy suffers from persistent and intense feelings of sadness and despair, often exhibiting disturbances in appetite and sleep. Psychotic depression occurs when some form of psychosis is present. Hallucinations and delusions are common with this condition. People with psychosis can feel out of touch with reality, hear voices in their heads, and develop strange and illogical ideas. There are several methods of treating major depression once it has been diagnosed. These approaches include prescribing antidepressants, psychotherapy, and other forms of somatic therapy. Each patient is unique, and symptoms vary from one person to another; therefore, treatment also requires an individual approach. In the case of bipolar disorder, antidepressants can be dangerous and increase the risk of becoming manic. Manic depression is also treated with therapy, but different medication is prescribed, such as mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety and anti-seizure drugs. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, and patients usually need help, treatment, and medication for the rest of their lives. People with major depressive disorder may need support on a shorter-term, depending on whether the depression is recurring or not.
Depression is a major contributor to the global burden of disease and affects people from all walks of life. Although little is known about how to prevent and avoid depression, modern health care provides effective and well-researched treatments to improve the health and lives of people suffering from it around the world. It is also very important to raise awareness of depression in all its forms. Bipolar disorder and unipolar depression are two seemingly similar mood disorders that can be misdiagnosed and cause even more damage. Collective efforts help to assess, diagnose, and treat these conditions individually and accordingly.