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Anxiety, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder: What’s the Difference?

Mental health disorders come in many different forms, and each individual’s unique circumstances need to be handled with their own nuance and care. However, many symptoms of mental health disorders can masquerade as other diagnoses, making it difficult to uncover the most pertinent approach for recovery. Knowing the difference between anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder can be crucial information in finding the right treatment for each individual. While some of the symptoms of these three disorders may overlap, they are all unique and challenging disorders that demand a directed and educated approach. 

What Is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is something that many people may feel on a daily basis. A degree of anxiety in one’s life is common and can come about as a result of any number of changes. Feeling anxious about a job interview, a stressful move, taking important tests, or when speaking in front of others are all common and, while undoubtedly uncomfortable, can motivate an individual to study or prepare for the events described. However, anxiety disorders can set in when this anxiety isn’t regulated or extends beyond the scope of the situation. 

Those suffering from anxiety disorders may feel as if their anxiety has given way to fear and has become difficult to manage. An individual may harbor their anxieties throughout the entirety of their day, never receiving the mental respite from the intense feelings. Others may feel anxiety tied to particular sources but find it incredibly difficult to mitigate their anxiety, creating a completely debilitating feeling of fear or panic. 

Anxiety disorders can manifest in a number of ways, from social anxiety to panic disorders, phobias, or insomnia, and all may come with a number of physical symptoms. Increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating, difficulty breathing, or isolation can develop as a defense against any number of perceived fears or sources of further anxiety. These sources of anxiety may also be difficult to pinpoint, as common or non-threatening situations may be perceived as threatening or uncomfortable, despite the reality.  

How Depression Differs

Depression, however, feels very different. While those who suffer from depression may similarly isolate themselves, be reluctant to join social occasions, or may have a low tolerance for stress, the reasons behind these actions are very different. 

Depression itself is more than a low mood or sadness. It is common to be sad or feel down now and again. Depression, however, is when these symptoms become prevalent over a prolonged period of time. Rather than simply feeling sad, those suffering from depression can feel the overwhelming weight of hopelessness, or even a feeling of personal worthlessness, compromising their ability to engage with daily responsibilities or former interests or hobbies. 

These complications also last for much longer than an afternoon or a day. Rather, depression can last for weeks or months at a time, with an episode of these intense feelings lasting about two weeks before being classified as depression. However, some episodes can last much longer, and those who suffer from depression may find it incredibly difficult to break out of such a low mood without professional or educated support aiding the process. 

Depression isn’t a matter of willpower, and those who suffer from depression may not be able to pull themselves out of these overwhelming negative moods as they are no longer finding enjoyment or respite from previously enjoyed activities, hobbies, or even friends. 

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can sometimes be confused with depression due to some similarities on the surface. However, bipolar disorder, formerly called “manic depression,” is its own unique disorder that requires a deft hand to address. 

While those who have bipolar disorder may also suffer from depression, how it manifests can be entirely different. Rather than experiencing a persistent state of low mood, bipolar disorder is instead defined by a rapid shifting between states of depression and elation (“mania”). An individual’s low moods may be an extreme level of depression, while their highs are described as almost euphoric, with little middle ground in between the two extremes. 

These low points can often cause an individual to feel as if they only need to cope with depression. While learning to address this depression is crucial, bipolar disorder demands that an individual learn to regulate both ends of their emotional spectrum, with even the emotional highs presenting some unique problems. 

Regulating Moods and Emotions

Without regulating one’s low moods, depressive episodes can compromise self-worth and can manifest as neglect of responsibilities, obligations, and even previous enjoyments. However, manic episodes for those who have bipolar disorder can often lead to an increase in risky behavior, or an individual may begin to experiment with new people or hobbies with little consideration for the future. 

Bipolar disorder can become even more complicated if an individual is experiencing conflicting ends of the spectrum concurrently, leaving an individual feeling depressed but also energetic and restless. It is also common that feelings of elation are closely followed by extreme levels of depression, with those who have bipolar disorder rapidly shifting between these two extremes, creating a dangerous and difficult cycle to regulate. 

Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are all complicated disorders that demand education and professional attention to manage effectively. These complicated disorders can impact each individual’s life in a unique way, and we at Everlast Recovery Center are prepared to help you better understand and address how you can begin your unique path to recovery. We understand the overwhelming nature of each of these disorders, and our caring, trained professionals are ready to help develop a recovery plan that is pertinent to your situation and needs throughout your time with us. Individual and group therapy, yoga, meditation, art, music, and mindfulness practices are all available to you, as well as a comprehensive substance use program and detox facility for those who may have tried self-medicating these overwhelming emotions. For more information on how we can curate a plan specifically for you or for more information on the key differences between anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, call to speak to a staff member at (866) 338-6925.

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