The difference between depression and bipolar depression is in the severity and frequency. Depression alone is often brought about by life circumstances, while bipolar depression is chemically- induced and the flip side of mania. The depression and mania come in cycles, regardless of the circumstances in a person’s life.
While those suffering clinical depression are at risk of using drugs or alcohol to alleviate their symptoms, the risk is greater in those with bipolar depression. A person who knows the highs of mania may try to recreate the feeling when they are depressed or “stable”. Drugs often help create that high for a short time. This puts the person at risk of adding drug addiction to the bipolar disorder.
Treatment of the two types of depression also varies. Those suffering from clinical depression are prescribed anti-depressants alone. Those with bipolar depression, however, are often given a mood stabilizer first, and an antidepressant as a second choice if needed. Both medications adjust the brain chemicals to alleviate the depression, but the mood stabilizer also helps the person keep from going too far in the other direction and becoming manic.
To the person suffering depression, it feels the same regardless of what causes the mood. The important part knowing the difference plays is mainly in treatment options. A person suffering bipolar depression is at risk of becoming manic if only the depression is treated. This in itself creates additional problems.