Bipolar Disorder and depression are both mental disorders, and there are some similarities between the two forms of mental illness but there are also some very important differences as well. The first thing that a mental health professional will do is to ask about the symptoms that the patient has been experiencing, and this will help reach an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes depression can occur all alone, and at other times it is part of a larger disorder like bipolar disorder. Bipolar refers to two poles, and these individuals will experience stages of depression but also stages of mania which is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Someone who is bipolar will have periods when they have a lot of energy, they may feel like they only need a few hours sleep and then they wake up feeling rested, and they may engage in high risk behavior because of a sense of euphoria and an artificially high self esteem.
Only a qualified mental health professional can determine whether an individual has bipolar disorder or just depression, and the symptoms experienced may be different with each individual. Bipolar disorder means that the individual cycles between being depressed and being manic, and some are so called rapid cyclers who may enter each phase briefly before moving to the other stage. Some individuals may go weeks or even months being either depressed or manic. A mental health professional may nee to monitor the individual for some time to ensure an accurate diagnosis, otherwise the individual may be diagnosed and being depressed because the manic cycle did not occur during the diagnostic period.