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Difficult Moods in Bipolar Depression

Bipolar Depression Symptoms - Part 4

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Updated June 08, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Like the other symptoms of bipolar depression, the difficult moods listed here -- irritability, anger, worry/anxiety, pessimism, indifference, and a tendency to be self-critical -- may also be present in major depressive disorder. The difference, of course, is that in bipolar disorder there are also episodes of mania or hypomania.

In addition to the depressed or sad mood and lack of pleasure that are typical of depressive episodes, the below mood states might also indicate depression. To further complicate matters, irritability and anger may also be reflective of manic symptoms as well.

  • Irritability
    Almost everyone becomes irritable now and then. The reasons are almost without number. A headache, a bad night's sleep, an upcoming dentist appointment, an unexpected bill -- any stressor can bring it on. But when there is no apparent reason why the least little thing becomes an annoyance, and the mood persists for days or weeks, look for depression as the cause.

  • Anger
    Anger is irritability pushed to an extreme. In depression, a person may explode over what might otherwise be a mild irritant -- or over nothing at all. It may be a brooding anger that comes to a boil over something seemingly harmless. If anger lasts or becomes frightening or violent, seek help for yourself or your loved one as soon as possible.

  • Worry/Anxiety
    This may present in a number of ways. For example, a person may seize on a few daily items and worry obsessively about them. Do I have enough sleeping pills? What will we have for dinner? Did I put gas in the car? Another form is responding to every issue with anxiety. I have to call the plumber -- what if he can't come today? I'd better leave early for my appointment in case the traffic is bad. Or it could be a more generalized anxiousness, perhaps accompanied by the racing thoughts that are more commonly associated with mania or hypomania. Anxiety is frequently associated with being indecisive.

  • Pessimism
    Pessimism means taking a negative view of everything. It's going to be another bad day. Nobody likes me. There's no point in applying for that job. In the case of depressive pessimism, the negativity is exaggerated all out of proportion with reality: There's no reason for it to be a bad day, some people do like you, and whether you're depressed or not, you might have a good chance of landing the job.

  • Indifference
    Simply put, indifference is not caring. The laundry piles up, the bills aren't paid, and you don't care. A friend calls with a problem, and you can only make polite noises or sit and listen silently, the words not really penetrating your shell of indifference. In depression, it isn't even so much that you don't care as that you can't care.

  • Self-Criticism
    Everyone has flaws -- but in this mood, your flaws seem magnified and you find flaws that aren't there. "I look tired today" becomes I'm ugly. "I've made a mistake in balancing the checkbook" becomes I'm an idiot with numbers. Forgot to feed the cat? I'm worthless. If you hear yourself or your bipolar loved one frequently saying overly negative things about him or herself, let it be a warning signal to you that depression is taking over.

It's important to know the characteristics of depression so that you can identify them as symptoms of a depressive episode when they occur, whether in yourself or in someone for whom you care or are responsible. Recognizing the symptoms as signs of depression can sometimes help to alleviate them; knowing what to look for means you can seek help that much sooner.

Related Reading:

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Bipolar Disorder
  4. Diagnosis & Symptoms
  5. Moods / Episodes
  6. Depression
  7. Depression Symptoms
  8. Difficult Mood Symptoms in Bipolar Depression

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