The Facts about Bipolar Depression Symptoms

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The Basics About Bipolar Depression

Bipolar depression is a brain disorder that commonly appears when a person is in their late teens or early twenties. Bipolar depression symptoms are generally severe and may prevent the person from carrying out their normal routines and activities. The cycles between depression and mania may be misleading to begin with and initially regarded as two separate problems. When a person is experiencing a depressive episode, it is important for family members to seek help as the person may harm themselves if not treated.

Bipolar Depression Symptoms

A person with bipolar disorder often experiences extended periods of depression. Bipolar depression symptoms are more severe than normal depression and are divided into mood changes and behavioral changes. For the condition to be diagnosed, five or more of the following symptoms should be present over the space of two weeks:

  • A depressed mood that is out of character with the person’s personality and normal behavior patterns. Feelings of emptiness and concern are common.
  • The person loses or has diminished interest in activities they used to enjoy. These can include anything from working on hobbies to socializing with friends to enjoying sex.
  • An extended bipolar depression can cause a noticeable loss or gain in weight and a corresponding interest or lack of interest in food.
  • Bipolar depression is often accompanied by fatigue and loss of energy. The person feels tired and finds it hard to motivate themselves to get up and do something.
  • Indecisiveness may become an issue and the person often develops problems with concentration and memory.
  • Changes in sleep patterns may occur with the person sleeping more or less than is normal.
  • Some people with bipolar depression suffer from inappropriate guilt. This adds to their depressed mood.
  • In some cases, the depression is accompanied by chronic pain where the cause cannot be pinpointed.
  • Bipolar depression is often accompanied by suicidal thoughts. The person may spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about death and suicide.
  • A bipolar depressive phase can last as long as three to six months and may be extremely disruptive. A person suffering from bipolar depression often has relationship problems and struggles to hold down a job or keep up with school work.

The depressive behaviour patterns can be further classified as being mild low moods, moderate depression or severe depression. During a mixed state, the depression and mania mingle and the sufferer typically feels sad and hopeless but also has excess energy. Bipolar disorder tends to worsen over time and needs professional intervention on an ongoing basis. Recognizing bipolar depression symptoms is an important part to finding help before the cycle swings too far.


Bipolar Disorder Booklet Produced by The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists