What Is Unipolar Disorder?

Also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Major Depression, or Clinical Depression, unipolar depression is a mental health condition that is characterized by a consistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, affecting a person’s day-to-day functioning. Major depression, also known as unipolar or major depressive disorder (MDD), is characterized by a persistent sense of sadness or loss of interest in external stimuli. While bipolar depression refers to frequent changes in mood between depression and mania, unipolar depression is focused on negative emotions and feelings experienced by the person who is affected.

The primary difference between bipolar and major depression is that depression is unipolar, meaning that there are not periods of abnormally high mood, whereas bipolar disorders involve symptoms of mania. The primary differences in treating these two conditions are because of the presence of bipolar depression, as well as the closer association of it with mania. Nearly two-thirds of those who suffer from bipolar disorder have one or more close relatives who suffer from either bipolar or major unipolar depression, suggesting that there is a heritable component to the disease.

For instance, someone affected by bipolar disorder may have mood swings that bring them from one end of the spectrum (or the pole) (e.g., mania) to the other (depression). Manic episodes in bipolar I disorder can be dangerous and serious, whereas people in bipolar II can experience depression over longer periods, leading to substantial impairment. Because those with major depression are stuck at the low end of the mood continuum, or depression; they are experiencing unipolar mood states (uni means one). Those who have unipolar disorder can experience persistent feelings of sadness, or may experience a loss of interest in some or all aspects of daily life.

Some express sadness physically, and those individuals can go through extensive and costly diagnostic procedures and treatments, while their mood disorders remain undiagnosed and untreated. Although only a small minority seek professional help for resolving their mood disorder, depressed individuals are considerably more likely to see a doctor than others. More women are diagnosed with depression than men, but that could partly be due to women being more likely to seek treatment.

There are a few reasons women are more likely to suffer from severe forms of depression, but they mostly come from the fact that depression tends to occur together with other illnesses and psychological conditions. While researchers are still unsure about the exact causes of depression, they have identified a number of factors that can raise the risk that you will develop depression. By studying mania and depression as distinct disorders, instead of bipolar and unipolar, the field is able to tease out processes that are both similar and unique among these phenomena, which would be impossible under diagnostic nomenclature.

Because most of these studies compare two distinct phenomena within a single disorder (i.e., mania and depression) to one phenomenon in an unipolar disorder (i.e., depression), the literature does not shed much light on depression in bipolar and unipolar disorders. Methodological issues Although much of the research has compared unipolar with bipolar disorders, most of these studies focus on bipolar disorders in general, not distinguishing between mania and depression. Perhaps the field would be best served if it examined depression, without regard to the presence of comorbid mania.

The most important difference is that unipolar, or clinical, depression does not involve episodes of mania as the primary symptom. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms simultaneously) are also possible. These mood episodes are classified as either manic/hypomanic (abnormally happy or irritable moods) or depressive (sad moods).

Their depressive symptoms should be causing considerable distress, not related to medications or physical health conditions. The diagnosis may also influence how happy each individual feels about his or her life, and whether they develop mood disorders such as unipolar depression. To determine if someone is suffering from unipolar depression, doctors and mental health professionals evaluate their feelings, patterns of behaviors, and symptoms. Seasonal affective disorder is different from others because the depressive mood may be present throughout the day, and it can persist over long periods of time (longer than two weeks). For doctors to diagnose someone with unipolar depression, they can evaluate their patients feelings, behavioral patterns and symptoms using a mental health evaluation and other tools.

Primary care doctors or psychiatrists are equipped to prescribe the appropriate medications to alleviate (and, in some cases, treat) symptoms associated with depression, though people with unipolar depression are advised to also consult a mental health professional to address the underlying issues that might trigger it. Because of the potential risks of triggering mania from treatments associated with Serotonin-related depression, medical professionals should inquire about the history of bipolar disorder in a person seeking depression treatment, and obtain a complete family history to check for the presence of bipolar. Unipolar and bipolar depressions frequently do not have life-experienced triggers, and typically require more of a medical-based than therapy-based approach to treatment.

Depression can often worsen if left untreated, leading to emotional, behavioral, and health problems affecting all areas of your life. Called Major Depressive Disorder, or Clinical Depression, it affects the way you feel, think, and act, and it can cause many emotional and physical problems.

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