Skip to main content

What is the difference between a bipolar disorder and a major depressive disorder diagnosis?

bipolar, depression

Understanding the diagnostic standards and the symptoms that sufferers encounter can assist in distinguishing between the two illnesses.

For a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, the DSM-5 outlines the following criteria. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period, and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

  1. A person must report that they feel depressed most of the day, almost every day.
  2. A person must feel a diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. A significant weight change, either loss or gain. There may also be an increase or decrease in appetite daily.
  4. A noticeable slowing down in mental and physical activity.
  5. Unexplained feelings of fatigue or loss of energy.
  6. Unexplained feelings of shame or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
  7. The inability to concentrate or focus.
  8. Reoccurring thoughts of death, suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or thoughts of suicide with a definite plan.

If you suffer from major depressive disorder, you likely suffer from some or all of the following symptoms daily:

For a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a person must suffer from five of the following criteria, and the symptoms must include both mania and hypomania.

Bipolar l Disorder Criteria

Bipolar ll disorder criteria:

More challenging to diagnose cyclothymic disorder criteria:

Mania, or extreme enthusiasm, overactivity, delusions, and euphoria, is a symptom of bipolar disease. Depression, or sadness and hopelessness, is a symptom of bipolar disorder.

A mania or hypomanic episode must occur at least once for bipolar disorder to be identified. The manic state, characterized by an elevated, expansive, or irritated mood, must endure for one week and last most of each day. For a mood to be hypomanic, it must last for four days straight, for most of the day, and nearly every day. Three or more of the following signs and symptoms of bipolar illness must be present:

What are the common treatment modalities for bipolar and major depressive disorder?

Left untreated, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder can negatively impact social and occupational function and the risk of suicide. Possible treatment modalities include:

What can you do when you are feeling depressed?

Although there is no way to prevent major depressive episodes or bipolar mania and hypomania, you can get help to manage your symptoms. If you or a loved one struggles with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, Compassionate Psychiatric Services may have a treatment solution for you. Give our office a call today at 469-200-4093 and speak with a specialist. For more information, visit our website at


You Might Also Enjoy...

What does stress and anxiety feel like?

The beginning of a New Year can be stressful and create anxiety, caused by the pressures of resolutions and new goals coupled with short days and gloomy weather. We deal with life’s