Understanding Bipolar Depression
My heart goes out to anyone who is experiencing the darkness of bipolar depression right now. It is a miserable experience. It will require you to muster every ounce of strength and courage you have to continue to fight the good fight. I know from personal experience.
Because I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II, I am more prone to have bouts of depression than I am to experience manic episodes. In fact, I don’t think I have ever experienced full-blown mania – only hypomania.
I have to admit – when I am hypomanic, I feel fantastic. I am surged with energy and creativity. It is a welcomed change from the depression for sure. However; hypomania does come with its own special brand of consequence and is always followed by a crash.
Anyway. We’re not here to talk about the manic end of the spectrum when it comes to bipolar disorder. We’re here to delve into what I like to call “the downer” aspect of this condition. For sure, being depressed is a real bummer.
I want to educate you on the topic of bipolar depression. Knowledge is power. The more you know about your condition, the better off you will be. I also want to tell you what this experience is like for me, offer you some words of encouragement, talk to you about treatment, and give you some helpful tips that will help you to avoid depression.
What Is Bipolar Depression?
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in moods and changes in energy. This is caused by a dysregulation of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for regulating mood. Specifically, bipolar affects the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. They promote health, wellness, balanced energy, mood, and cognitive functioning.
During a manic episode, there is a surge of the brain’s feel-good chemicals. This results in a blast of energy that can cause a person to lose touch with reality and have a psychotic break. It can also cause someone to compulsively and excessively engage in pleasurable activities. These may include sex, shopping, using alcohol or drugs, gambling, binge-eating, and dangerous pursuits like driving too fast.
On the flip side, bipolar depression is caused by a depletion of serotonin, dopamine, and other important neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood.
It can lead to feelings of extreme sadness, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and the total loss of interest in daily living, it depletes you of any desire to participate in your own life joyously, and it may even cause you to feel like you don’t want to go on living anymore.
What Are The Symptoms of Bipolar Depression?
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or you think you might have this condition), it is important to recognize the symptoms of depression when they begin to manifest themselves. This will help you recognize a depressive episode at the onset.
Generally, people who experience bipolar depression have some of the same symptoms. However; some will get more depressed than others. Also, depression lasts longer for some than it does for other people.
Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with bipolar depression:
- A general feeling of being “down” (this can be quite profound and overwhelming)
- Uncontrollable crying or crying for no apparent reason
- The need to withdraw from social relationships
- Physical and mental fatigue, a lack of energy
- An overall feeling of physical weakness (even holding up your head can feel like a chore)
- The inability to focus or concentrate
- No motivation to perform basic tasks
- Irritability, hostility, or agitation with oneself or others
- The inability to laugh or smile
- Poor hygiene, no desire to take a shower or bath
- Staying in the same clothes for days or weeks
- Feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred
- Binge-eating or a loss of appetite
- Sleeping longer than usual or the inability to sleep
- Physical aches and pains
- Stomach cramps or nausea
- Negative, cynical ideas about life and the future
- Thoughts about suicide or suicide attempts
It is important to keep in mind that bipolar depression is different than situational depression.
There are times in life when it is appropriate to be depressed. The loss of a loved one, losing a job, having financial difficulties, or going through a break-up are just a few of the many occasions in life that might cause you to feel down.
However; bipolar depression seems to come on with no real explanation. Life circumstances do not necessarily trigger it. It is caused by a slowdown in the production of the brain’s feel-good chemicals. Bipolar depression just kind of shows up in your life and grabs hold of you. It can last for a week, or it can go on for months.
Bipolar depression is a horrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It can cause even the most mentally tough person to question everything they think they know about life. I have endured many bouts of severe depression, and I know what it is like to face the darkest day after day. It is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting.