“My doctor says I have bipolar depression. But what does that mean?”

What is Bipolar Depression?

Bipolar depression is part of a larger condition called bipolar disorder. Specifically, the “lows” that you may be feeling, those moments of hopelessness, these are the possible symptoms of the depressive moments associated with bipolar disorder. Bipolar depression is a lifelong condition that creates unusual mood changes that can vary in length and severity. You can go from feeling revved up and euphoric to feeling down and hopeless.

“What's the difference between unipolar depression and bipolar depression?

While there are many forms of depression, bipolar depression is oftentimes misdiagnosed as unipolar depression. It should also be treated differently. To help ensure a proper diagnosis, be sure to tell your doctor what you are feeling and experiencing.

You may be experiencing “lows.” But have you also had “high” moments? Are there times when you are energized or really agitated? These “highs” are what may indicate you have bipolar I disorder. The fact you have highs eliminates the possibility that you have unipolar depression. These “lows” associated with bipolar disorder are what identifies your condition as bipolar depression.

Use this Doctor Discussion Guide to have a conversation with your doctor about your condition, your medications, or other questions you feel are important.

“What's the science behind bipolar depression?

Dopamine:
Science has shown that dopamine is associated with thoughts and emotions. It also helps control movement in your body. A decrease in this neurotransmitter may slow your movement and even your motivation. While an increase has the opposite effect, resulting in increased movement and motivation.

Serotonin:
Serotonin is a chemical released in your brain by nerve cells. This chemical acts as a messenger to control your mood. Decreased serotonin levels may be linked to sadness or dips in your mood; an increase to a boost in your mood.

There are two neurotransmitters in your brain that may play a role in bipolar disorder. And each has a different function

Serotonin

Dopamine

Human Brain Diagram Showing
Serotonin and Dopamine Human Brain Diagram Showing
Serotonin and Dopamine Human Brain Diagram Showing
Serotonin and Dopamine

5 Signs it might be Bipolar Depression

Take a look at the signs. If they sound familiar to you, it may be time to take the Mood Disorder Questionnaire. You can answer the questions and share them with your doctor to help screen for bipolar disorder.

Having one sign alone does not mean you have bipolar depression.

Mood Disorder Questionnaire

How do you find out if it could be bipolar depression?

Many people struggle with bipolar depression for years without a clear diagnosis. Maybe you? Or someone you love? But how do you find out if it could be bipolar depression? It all starts by talking to your doctor. Only an in-depth conversation can help determine the diagnosis of bipolar depression.

However, there are also things you can do to help with that discussion. By going through the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) and answering all of the questions openly and honestly, you will provide valuable insights for your doctor. The MDQ is appropriate for adults, 18 and over.

Once you're finished, print or email the results to take with you to your next appointment.

I am taking this questionnaire for:

1

Has there ever been a period of time when you wereyour friend or loved one was not yourtheir usual self and...

Select the statements that apply to you

2

Has there ever been a period of time when you wereyour friend or loved one was not yourtheir usual self and...

Select the statements that apply to you

3

Has there ever been a period of time when you wereyour friend or loved one was not yourtheir usual self and...

Select the statements that apply to you

4

If you selected more than one of the previous statements, have several of these ever happened during the same period of time?

Select Yes or No

5

How much of a problem did any of these cause youyour friend or loved one (like being unable to work; having family, money, or legal troubles; getting into arguments or fights)?

Select one option below

Please note: We do not collect or save your personal information. The answers you enter can be printed by clicking the button at the end or by emailing them to yourself. For your security, these answers will not be saved.

This instrument is designed for screening purposes for adults aged 18 and older only and is not to be used as a diagnostic tool. Always consult with your health care provider.

If you have serious thoughts about suicide, call your health care provider right away or go to the hospital emergency room. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

© 2000 by Robert M.A. Hirschfeld, MD. Reprinted with permission.

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