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It's very easy to confuse depression with bipolar disorder or manic depression as it used to be known. Depression can be a stand alone condition, or it can form a part of a more comple disorder, such as bipolar.

The main difference between bipolar and regular depression, is that bipolar sufferers experience mania periods or manic episodes. Intense highs are typically followed by deep lows, and it's these extremes that can make bipolar so destructive. Depression, on the other hand, does not involve such severe swings in mood. There are no manic episodes, or times of intense happiness. Depression sufferes are depressed, full stop.

A mental health expert should be able differentiate between the two conditions relatively easily. The presence of manic episodes will indicate that the patient is suffering from bipolar. The absence on manic episodes will indicate that the patient has depression.

The main symptoms of a manic episode include a feeling or heightened self-esteem, an increase in goal-directed activity (such as work or school), and a greater interest in fanciful ideas. You may also become considerably more talkative, and have less desire to sleep. A manic episode is said to have occurred if such symptoms last for at least a week.

A bipolar sufferer will experience such manic episodes followed closely by feelings of depression and lethargy. During these periods, you will feel continually depressed, and receive no pleasure from anything. You may also have very little energy, and a general feeling or worthlessness. Depression can also cause significant weight gain or weight loss. Sufferers can also sleep too much or experience an inability to sleep.

It's tempting to view bipolar disorder as more serious than normal depression but both conditions can be very damaging. Depression and bipolar can both have a major impact on your life, and the lives of those around you. Sadly, both can lead to self harm, and in some cases, suicide.

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