The Difference Between Anxiety, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder
Updated: Sep 8
Obtaining a diagnosis is the first step in seeking mental and behavioral healthcare. Once you understand your specific mental health condition, you can obtain the support you need to thrive. However, it can be tricky to understand the nuances between the many diagnoses, especially when discussing anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Here’s how to distinguish between these common conditions.
How Anxiety, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder Differ
About 18% of American adults experience anxiety every year, so this is a common behavioral health diagnosis. There are several types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.
The symptoms of anxiety vary greatly and can be physical, emotional, and mental. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Nervousness and worry
Sense of fear or doom
Rapid heart rate and breathing
Lack of focus
A mental health professional will perform a psychological assessment to diagnose anxiety, as well as the specific type. Common treatments include talk therapy, group counseling, and anxiety medication. Lifestyle changes can also support clinical anxiety treatment.
Depression, or major depressive disorder, affects fewer people than anxiety but is still prevalent. About 7% of American adults fit the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. Some people may experience anxiety and depression at the same time.
Much like anxiety, the symptoms of depression vary. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Lack of energy
Lack of interest in normal activities
Sleeping too much or too little
Changes in appetite or weight
Following a diagnosis of depression, a mental health professional will recommend a treatment course based on your needs. Depression medications are often part of these treatment plans. Individual therapy can also help patients cope with their depression symptoms in a safe and confidential environment.
Affecting 2.8% of the adult population in the United States, bipolar disorder is the least common condition on this list. It may also be less familiar to many people. Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes significant fluctuations in moods and behavior.
There are two main types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I: Bipolar I disorder is a condition that causes periods of “ups” and “downs” that can last a week or more. These periods of mania or depression often require professional care.
Bipolar II: This is a less severe version of bipolar disorder. There are still ups and downs, but the behavior is less intense.
When discussing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s helpful to distinguish between the periods of mania and depression. During periods of mania or less severe “hypomania,” individuals may experience increased energy, racing thoughts, distraction, feelings of euphoria, and a lack of impulse control. They might sleep less, notice racing thoughts, talk more, and experience periods of agitation.
The depressive episodes often bring about the symptoms of depression listed above. The individual may feel empty, sad, or hopeless. They may lose interest in activities, feel fatigued, experience thoughts of suicide, and notice changes in sleep patterns.
In the moment, the symptoms of bipolar disorder may mimic those of anxiety and major depressive disorder, depending on the state of the individual. This is why it’s important to see a mental health professional to understand the full scope of the condition. Treatment includes medication for bipolar disorder, as well as specialized counseling services.
The team at The Collective is proud to offer diagnostics and treatment for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Our Denver counseling solutions take a holistic approach to mental health care, putting individual needs at the center. We offer psychiatric services to help clients with comprehensive medication management. Contact us today to get started.