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How do you know if a parent is bipolar or depressed?

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Quick Answer

Bipolar is a complex illness with many different symptoms, the primary one being dramatic and unpredictable mood swings, states WebMD. Depression symptoms include sadness, loss of energy, uncontrollable crying, changes in appetite causing weight loss or gain, and increased need for sleep.

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Full Answer

Additional symptoms of depression are anxiety, irritability, difficulty making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide, adds WebMD. Mania symptoms may include increased energy, less need for sleep, excessive happiness, high sex drive, and a tendency to make grand and unattainable plans. Sometimes individuals with bipolar disorder are diagnosed as having only depression because the manic episodes are mild and can pass by unnoticed. Major depressive disorder, or unipolar depression, is different from bipolar depression in that there are no intervals of hypomania. Individuals evaluated for depression should also be evaluated for a history of manic episodes, recommends WebMD.

Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose because sometimes symptoms differ from the expected manic-depressive sequence of elevated and depressed mood cycles, explains WebMD. If substance abuse is present, which is the case in 60 percent of bipolar individuals, the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder is further complicated. It is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder when an individual is using substances that can cause mood swings.

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