Bipolar Depression Symptoms

Although bipolar depression and unipolar depression (or Major Depressive Disorder) may appear similar, they both have drastically different symptoms. Some symptoms of major depression may not also be bipolar depression symptoms, and vice versa.   With bipolar depression, individuals often experience periods of depression & extreme mood swings. Also, with bipolar depression, there is always the chance it could be mixed with bipolar mania–which is called a mixed episode. Here is more information about the difference between bipolar depression and unipolar depression:  

Major depressive disorder symptoms

  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Suicidal thinking & attempts to take own life
 

Bipolar depression symptoms

  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • May experience sleep disturbances, or oversleeping
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • More attempts to take own life than with major depressive disorder
  • A profound loss of energy
  • Severe depression more likely to include psychotic symptoms
  • Onset of depression occurs at a younger age
  • More likely to have a co-occurring mental illness, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or substance abuse
  • More likely to have a family history of mania
  • More episodes of depression than with unipolar depression
  • Use of antidepressants—without concurrent use of a mood-stabilizer—may cause hypomania or mania
  Here are articles and blog posts relating to bipolar depression symptoms:

Highlights

7 Signs That Bipolar Depression Is Brewing

Tanya Hvilivitzky
July 17, 2018

If the onset of depression always seems to surprise you, here are seven signs that your mood is headed south. #1 Impaired Memory One of the hallmark symptoms of bipolar depression is the presence of cognitive-based symptoms. As such, small impairments in memory—misplacing things, struggling to remember your daily to-do list—may be indicative of a...

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20 Unexpected Signs of Bipolar Depression

Julie A. Fast
July 25, 2016

I’ve found that there are two kinds of bipolar depression, and few seek treatment for the second type. By identifying our depressive symptoms before we get sick, we can manage bipolar disorder far more successfully. Here are the signs of an angry and irritated downswing. Not All Symptoms of Bipolar Depression Are Obvious I have bipolar...

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Unipolar vs. Bipolar Depression: What’s the Difference?

Donna Jackel
October 1, 2010

Bipolar depression disrupts and devastates lives, and tends to dominate the course of a person’s illness. Yet, it’s still difficult to diagnose and treat. Leading Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is fighting stigma by being open about receiving treatment for bipolar II, which has a 40:1 ratio of time spent in depression versus mania. It is...

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Blogs and Articles
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Overcoming Isolation During Bipolar Depression

Anja Burcak
February 24, 2022

For many of us with bipolar, depressive episodes involve self-isolating. Knowing the signs of social withdrawal helps me overcome this challenging symptom. If video is not showing, click here Bipolar Depression, Negative Thinking, & Withdrawing from Others I have noticed a connection between my bipolar depression and isolation: One of the main problems I face with...

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Seeking Healthy Thrills to Prevent Bipolar Depression

Sasha Kildare
February 22, 2022

Newness is exciting; boredom feels painful. It took a while for me to realize that boredom is a personal risk factor for depressive episodes. Not everyone understands this. As it turns out, there’s plenty of research regarding how learning new things influences your brain, including creating new connections between your neurons (neuroplasticity). This is, in...

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When “Helpful” Advice Doesn’t Help Bipolar Depression

Carrie Cantwell
January 3, 2022

If I could “snap out of it,” I would. Here’s why advice like that isn’t helpful—plus 5 strategies that do help me cope with bipolar depression. Unhelpful Advice for Bipolar Depression Have you ever gotten this advice when experiencing bipolar depression? “Think positive.” “It could be worse.” “Snap out of it.” I’ve heard it all,...

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Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays

Debbie Jacobs
December 20, 2021

Holidays can be challenging, especially when we feel isolated. To avoid bipolar depression, I’m taking a proactive approach—tackling loneliness directly and finding ways to feel joyful. Feeling Lonely & Isolated During the Holidays The holidays can often be the hardest time of the year for dealing with loneliness and the potential mood shift that can...

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Bipolar Depression & Counting My Blessings on Thanksgiving

Susie Johnson
November 23, 2021

Years ago, I learned firsthand that serving others in need can also help alleviate the heaviness of a long episode of bipolar depression. Bipolar Depression on Thanksgiving Years ago, when I was a 20-year-old with a new diagnosis of bipolar disorder, my parents had dragged me—kicking and screaming—from my native land of California to the...

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Socially Distanced Connections to Stave Off Depression

Melody Moezzi
October 27, 2021

Depression can draw you away from the people and places you love most, sapping your will to do much of anything. Engage! (Even in quarantine.) Social Anxiety or Bipolar Depression? As an extrovert, one of my greatest joys in life is chatting up strangers. I’ve made at least a dozen actual friends this way. Mario...

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From Pain to Pride: How Writing Helped Me Heal

Carrie Cantwell
October 26, 2021

Journaling allowed me to come to terms with my bipolar diagnosis, understand my mood swings, accept my past, and reconcile my current self with my dreams for the future. I’ve been through some stuff. I’ve faced childhood trauma, the sudden loss of a parent, and a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder. Through everything, writing has...

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We Can Learn New Ways to Improve Life with Bipolar

Debbie Jacobs
September 2, 2021

When I was stuck in the black hole of bipolar depression, I discovered the only way to improve my life. To heal, I had to allow myself to learn. Healing & Personal Development I’ve centered my life around healing and the work of personal development, which is really about discovering what you don’t know, for...

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5 Lessons Learned from Managing Bipolar & Pregnancy

Tiffany Romito
August 19, 2021

I adore my growing family and happily shared “baby bump” updates with friends and family. Still, I spent each of my pregnancies in survival mode, coping with sadness and the risk of another depressive episode. Bipolar Disorder & Pregnancy Thriving and surviving. Those are two terms I often hear when people explain how their pregnancy...

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When My “Go-To” Mood-Management Strategies Aren’t Cutting It

Jessica Walker
August 17, 2021

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve tried everything to manage a mood episode, but nothing seems to “work.” Here’s what I do next. Abundant Advice for Bipolar Mood Management Fortunately, there are a ton of resources with advice for dealing with the mood episodes that come with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You can read publications...

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4 Reasons Saying “No” to Self-Fueling Mania Leads to a Happier Life

Julie A. Fast
August 10, 2021

Especially during depressive episodes, mania might seem appealing. I know from experience, though, that welcoming mania means holding the door open for depression, too. Mania’s Appeal & Relationship to Depression I know as well as anyone that certain kinds of mania feel incredible. This is especially true if you experience a lot of depression and...

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Bipolar Depression & Struggling to Get Out of Bed

Debbie Jacobs
July 14, 2021

The daily obstacle of getting up sapped my energy and self-confidence. Here’s how I finally powered through the negative thoughts holding me back. Understanding Self-Belief with Bipolar Disorder What does it mean to believe in yourself when you are living with bipolar? Let’s start with what it is not. It’s not believing that you can...

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SoundOFF! Lifelines for low moods

bp Magazine Readers
June 30, 2021

Stressful times, personally or in society, can trigger bipolar depression. What helps you cope with and defend against episodes? A FEW THINGS that help me: my faith in God, a positive attitude, journaling, helping family with yard work and so on, while being thankful for all the blessings in my life. There are worse things...

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Recovering from “Bipolar Blowouts”

Andrea Paquette
June 10, 2021

When mood episodes turn our lives upside-down, the emotional fallout can seem overwhelming. Here’s how I learned to mitigate these “blowouts” and manage the hard feelings that follow. What Is a “Bipolar Blowout”? Sometimes we face difficult, damaging, even traumatizing life experiences. As trying as they may be, the importance lies in how we handle...

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Bipolar Disorder’s Impact on My College Education

JB Burrage
May 14, 2021

I attended college at an older age and felt proud after earning my degree. I also learned the consequences of pushing too hard, burning out, and risking depression. Realizing the Breadth of Bipolar’s Influence Recently, I was asked to share my experiences regarding my time as a college student. It was something different for me...

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Bipolar Disorder: Who Is the Real “Me”?

Anthony Clark
April 6, 2021

With bipolar disorder, I have a tough time reconciling the manic, depressed, anxious, and normal “me.” How do I determine my identity, when my ever-changing mood disorder causes “out of character” behavior? Bipolar Disorder & Questions of Identity I have been living with active bipolar disorder for decades, and I have struggled with the question...

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Harnessing the Power of My Symbolic Self

Julie A. Fast
February 24, 2021

With bipolar depression, you may struggle and feel as if you can’t go on—but, like a phoenix, you can and will rise again! How I Keep Going When I Feel Like I Can’t You might not know it yet, but deep inside of you is an essence that is untouched by bipolar disorder. I call...

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Dealing with Bipolar & Concurrent SAD

Valerie Harvey
February 18, 2021

When bipolar depression and seasonal affective disorder exacerbate each other, it can be hard to find the light. I’m here to say keep holding on to hope! As I write this, I’ve been wrestling with bipolar disorder for more than 30 years! We’re all very familiar with the ups (mania), the downs (depression), and—for some,...

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The Calming Effect of Nature on My Bipolar Symptoms

Jessica Walker
February 16, 2021

When I’m dealing with racing thoughts, mania, or depression, going into nature—the local beach or nearby woods—calms my mind and soothes my soul. Racing Thoughts, My Nonstop Bipolar Symptom My world is so busy. There are so many things going on, and my brain is all over the place. There is work, which occupies most...

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3 Ways to Get Things Done When You’re Depressed

Julie A. Fast
February 4, 2021

It takes effort and a plan, but bipolar depression can’t stop us from reaching our goals. We can get things done when it feels impossible. Every Shade of Depression My brain feels like mush. I can’t focus as I write this. I’m restless and unhappy, worried and frustrated. I’m depressed. But I have work to...

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