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Bipolar Depression

Without treatment, a person with bipolar disorder may have intense episodes of depression, with symptoms including sadness, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness and trouble concentrating. It is common to gain or lose weight, sleep too much or too little and/or contemplate or attempt suicide.

While bipolar depression is different from clinical depression, its episodes of persistent low moods meet the criteria for major depression. Individuals with bipolar disorder also experience extreme mood swings, with alternating periods of great highs (mania or a less severe form of hypomania) and lows. 

Despite the similarities, bipolar depression and MDD require different treatments. For bipolar depression:

    • Mood-stabilizing medications are recommended for treatment and prevention of bipolar mood states, including “off label” for bipolar depression (though not approved by the FDA as first-line treatment for bipolar depression). Mood stabilizers can improve social interactions, mood and behavior.
    • Some anti-depressants can trigger bipolar mania, while others are ineffective for bipolar depression. However, antidepressants added to a mood stabilizer can help, if a mood stabilizer alone is ineffective.
    • Lithium and other antipsychotic medications are approved by the FDA for treating one or more phases of bipolar disorder.

Read more about treatment and prevention for Bipolar Depression and other mood disorders.


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