Artwork by

Depressive Phase of Bipolar Disorder: An In-Depth Look

Medically reviewed by

Written by

There are usually two parts to bipolar disorder: depression and mania. Depression is the part where one usually feels sad, empty, worried, and anxious—often for no reason. If one feels low for a long period, usually over two weeks, then one may take it as a sure sign of a depression episode. 

Differentiating Bipolar Depression from Unipolar Depression

There isn’t a fixed pattern of depression or a manic state. One can have a few bouts of a depressed state before experiencing a manic one. The major difference between unipolar (usually known as just depression) and bipolar depression is that the latter has phases of mania as well as depressive phases. The former only has depressive states in various intensities. Both, however, require care and treatment. 

Symptoms and Characteristics of Bipolar Depression

Symptoms of bipolar depression phase usually include most of the following:

Physical Symptoms: Beyond Emotional Distress

Physical symptoms often include having little or no energy, loss of pleasure and interest in things that once were important, and shifts in sleep patterns and or appetite—increased or decreased. One’s psychosomatic state affects the physical being as well, and lethargic actions are often a telltale sign of this state. 

Cognitive Changes During the Depressive Phase

Cognitive changes include continuous feelings of sadness, irritability, emptiness, and difficulty concentrating. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and, in really worse-case scenarios, suicidal thoughts. One needs to know that these can affect the normal functioning of the individual in their day-to-day lives. 

Emotional and Mood-Related Symptoms

The depressive state can end up lasting way longer than the manic state—one usually feels sand, empty, and even annoyed at little things. One loses the happiness that one feels when doing activities they love and struggles with decreased energy levels and fatigue. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors may be present in a person.

Sleep Disturbances and Energy Levels

Sleep patterns are usually altered as well. One ends up sleeping way more than usual or struggles to fall asleep at all. The quality of sleep is hampered. Energy levels are also seen to take a hit, and the individual usually has low energy levels throughout the entire episode. 

Behavioral Changes and Social Withdrawal

One's behavior also changes during the phases of bipolar depression. One may not feel like getting out of bed, they don’t enjoy doing anything that they liked to do previously, they have a tough time remembering things and making decisions, and they generally don’t want to interact with people. An extreme case is thinking about death and suicide. 

Impact on Self-Esteem and Personal Identity

One’s self-esteem also usually takes a hit because one’s self-worth takes a hit. One doesn’t feel like they are worth anything, that they deserve anything, and leaves things up to fate, more often than not. They can have trouble focusing and concentrating on things that they never really did earlier on, and the way their personality also changes to a sadder, isolated one is another symptom. 

Psychosomatic Symptom

Feelings of sadness and anxiety can often percolate into physical bodily symptoms that are not treatable without treating the mental health problem first. One ends up sleeping a lot or too little as a result of these symptoms. Unusual amounts of lethargy, as well as an increased or decreased appetite, can all be a direct result of these psychosomatic symptoms.

Paste typeform embed here. Don't forget to delete this before pasting!

Impact of Bipolar Depression on Daily Life

Bipolar depression can have a significant impact on the daily functioning of an individual, including areas such as work, relationships, and self-care. The phase may end up lasting much longer than the manic phase, and individuals often experience trouble seeking help as well. 

Social Relationships and Bipolar Depression

Social withdrawal and isolation are common due to a lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Relationships and self-care can all be negatively affected, adding to the burdens experienced during depressive episodes. The desire to not interact when one has enjoyed it previously is a sign to look out for. Not being present in friendships, family matters, and relationships can also be another sign. 

Workplace Challenges and Coping Strategies

Workplace challenges pile up, whether it is in an office, a school, or an academic setting. Along with all the symptoms one is experiencing, not being able to concentrate on the work one is supposed to be engaged in is not the best place to be. Sleep disturbances, appetite changes, and physical symptoms like fatigue further contribute to the overall impact on functioning and well-being.

Treatment and Management of Bipolar Depression

Consulting a mental health professional is crucial for accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment planning, and ongoing support throughout the depression phase. Treatments vary from person to person, but a general guideline is as follows:

Medication Options

Psychiatric medications, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or atypical antipsychotics, may be prescribed to stabilize mood, manage depressive symptoms, and prevent future episodes. These medicines may only be prescribed by a psychiatrist, so a consultation with one is necessary. 

Psychotherapy Approaches

Various types of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT), or psychoeducation, can assist individuals in managing their emotions, improving coping skills, and developing strategies to prevent relapse.

Support Systems: Family, Friends, and Support Groups

Developing a support network of friends, family, or support groups can provide understanding, encouragement, and a sense of community. Having a good support system is essential to getting better sooner. 

Lifestyle Changes and Self-care Strategies

Avoiding drinking and drugs is a good way to not worsen one’s mood and also to prevent the medications from not working the way they need to. Trying to go to bed early, wake up on time, exercise, and take medicines at the same time every day also ensures a better level of functioning. 

Personalized Treatment Plans

Each person’s condition is different; therefore, each person’s plans should also be different and customized to their needs. This is to be examined by the individual’s psychiatrist and psychologist, who will take the clinical history and also some assessments to determine the kind of plan needed by the person. This is where one takes the call to decide what one’s path to recovery may look like. 

Understanding the Duration and Intensity of Bipolar Depression

The duration of depressive episodes in bipolar disorder can range from a few weeks to several months, with some experiencing longer-lasting episodes. The intensity of the depressive phase can also vary, with some individuals experiencing mild to moderate symptoms while others may face severe and debilitating depression

Predicting and Managing Fluctuations in Symptoms

Considering the unpredictable nature of bipolar depression, it is important to focus on how symptoms can vary in intensity and duration. Emphasizing the importance of recognizing early signs of symptom fluctuation can also go a long way. The role of regular consultations with healthcare providers to monitor and adapt treatment plans as needed is also to be kept in mind. 

Long-term Outlook: What Patients Can Expect

Patients need to know that the healing process depends on them fully following their treatment plans to the last detail. Usually, it is a mix of medication and psychotherapy. By combining professional help, appropriate treatment approaches, and lifestyle changes, individuals can effectively manage the depression phase of bipolar disorder and improve their quality of life.

Risk Factors and Triggers of Bipolar Depression

Genetic Predisposition and Family History

Some doctors believe that there is an element of genetics involved. If you have a history of the disorder in the family, you are more likely to have it as well. It should be noted, though, that most people who have direct or indirect relatives with the disorder don’t automatically develop it either. 

Substance Use and Its Impact

Alcohol and drugs are known to cause mood changes, and in a depressed state, taking a depressant alone will only make things worse. More often than not, it can lead to the development of another issue, addiction, which will only add to the problems the individual is facing since they have little to no control over their mood swings. 

Hormonal Changes and Their Effects

Hormone changes and other non-related treatments for hormones can also affect the intensity of the depressed state. An increase or decrease in sex hormones and stress hormones may, in some ways, determine the way bipolar depression may play out. 

Physical Health Conditions and Comorbidities

Comorbidities are already tough to deal with, and when combined with bipolar, it is even tougher. Health conditions such as hormone dysregulation, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other mental health conditions such as PTSD can inevitably impact the way the symptoms of bipolar depression are looked at. 

Paving the Way Forward in Bipolar Depression Care and Support at Cadabams

By combining professional help, appropriate treatment approaches, and lifestyle changes, individuals can effectively manage the depression phase of bipolar disorder and improve their quality of life. At Cadabam’s, we provide the best treatment plans, the best facilities, and, of course, the best professionals—who will aim to get you back on track as soon as possible. 

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Rehabilitation Centre can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their Depressive Phase of Bipolar Disorder. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949

Book screening with our director of triage,  Kamlesh Verma
Take the first step


How is Bipolar Depression Different from Regular Depression?

The major difference between unipolar (usually known as just depression) and bipolar depression is that the latter has phases of mania as well as depressive phases. The former only has depressive states in various intensities. Both, however, require care and treatment. 

What are the phases of bipolar affective disorder?

There are usually four main phases associated with bipolar affective disorder: depression, hypomania, mania, and mixed episodes. One may not necessarily experience all of them, but they are going to show in some variation or another.

Can Bipolar Depression be Treated?

Yes, bipolar disorder can be very well treated! At Cadabam's, we offer the best treatment plans, the best facilities, and the most knowledgeable and qualified professionals to help you feel better as soon as possible.

Is It Possible to Lead a Normal Life with Bipolar Depression?

To a large extent, yes. One can keep most of the symptoms under control, and with the right kind of medication, therapy, social support, and a strict lifestyle and regimen, one can expect to lead a ‘normal,’ or nearly normal, life. 

Share this article on social media

Articles you may like

Also watch