By Gabriella Phillip
Eliciting a history of brief periods of improved mood is the key to differentiating between unipolar and bipolar depression. Bipolar spectrum disorders typically begin earlier in life than unipolar depression; the usual sign of bipolar disorder in young children could be depression and/or a combination of depression and states of mania/hypomania. It’s significant to ask the patient how old they were when they first experienced a depressive episode. Men have a higher rate of bipolar disorder than women, but the rates for unipolar depression in men and women are more equal.
Some patients with bipolar spectrum disorder can go from normal to severely depressed technically overnight whereas unipolar depressive episodes tend to occur more gradually. Patients with bipolar spectrum depression tend to experience weight gain and crave carbs, while those with unipolar depression usually experience weight loss or loss of appetite. Patients suffering from bipolar depression tend to show irregular responses to antidepressant monotherapy, including switching into mania. Bipolar spectrum disorder is an inheritable mental illness, so it’s vital to take family history into consideration. While patients diagnosed with unipolar depression usually note that their symptoms fluctuate in a more stable, regular pattern, those with bipolar depression have moods that can vary unpredictably, usually with no cause.
When treating bipolar depression, antidepressants are used in combination with some sort of mood stabilizer. Treatment for unipolar depression can include medication like SSRIs and antidepressants, often in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy. Screening instruments including the Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale and the Mood Disorders Questionnaire can be effective and helpful tools in differentiating unipolar from bipolar depression.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Bipolar Disorder or Unipolar Depression, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ .