Difference Between Bipolar and Manic Depression

Main Difference – Bipolar vs Manic Depression

Manic depression, which was formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a type of Bipolar disorder. These two terms are often used interchangeably due to the confusion as to whether both the terms refer to the same illness or a different subcategory of the same illness. However, it is important to know how bipolar disorder and manic depression differ from each other. The main difference between bipolar and manic depression is that is manic depression is a severe episode of elevated moods (mania) followed by a period of depression whereas bipolar disorder also includes several other phases.

This article looks at,

1. What is Bipolar Disorder? – Condition and Features, Symptoms, Etiology, Treatment Methods

2. What is Manic Depression? – Condition and Features, Symptoms, Etiology, Treatment Methods

3. Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression 

What is Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, which is also known as Manic-depressive illness, is a disorder in the brain, resulting in abnormal mood changes such as high moods (mania and hypomania) and low moods (depression), lack of energy to engage in day to day activities, feeling of guilt and poor concentration abilities.

As far as the etiology of the bipolar disorder is considered, various pathological conditions in the brain, genetics, and positive family history are known to be playing important roles.

Bipolar disorder is classified into 4 types depending on the severity of mood swings, energy, and performance. The mood changes are known to vary from episodes of intense and elated mindset referred to as mania to very low, or hopeless episodes known as depression. Less severe episodes of mania are known as hypomanic phases.

Bipolar I Disorder is characterized by manic phases which last for at least 1 week. Severe depression, which usually tend to last for a period of at least 2 weeks and may require immediate hospital admission is also a sign of this phase.

Bipolar II Disorder is defined as an alternating pattern of at least one severe episode of depression and less severe hypomanic phases, without the presence of a full-blown, severe episode of mania similar to that of Bipolar 1.

Cyclothymic Disorder, also known as Cyclothymia refers to several episodes of hypomanic symptoms associated with several episodes of depressive symptoms which generally last for at least 2 years in adults and 1 year in adolescents. More importantly, these symptoms do not fulfill the diagnostic criteria of hypomania and depression. 

Other non-specific Bipolar disorders refer to conditions which do not meet the necessary requirements to be called bipolar disorder. It is important to distinguish these from major types for making appropriate interventions.

Being a chronic recurring illness, Bipolar disorder can be effectively treated with long-term mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants with or without psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy according to a patient’s requirements.

Electroconvulsive therapy can also be helpful in certain scenarios which do not respond to other medical interventions.

Key Difference - Bipolar vs Manic Depression

What is Manic Depression

In older days, general Bipolar disorder was also known as ‘manic depressive disorder,’ since it also has alternating periods of mania and depression. But, after the identification of subcategories under Bipolar disorder, Bipolar 1, which is characterized by full-blown episodes of mania alternating with periods of depression, began to be called as manic depression.

A person who is in a manic phase will indicate high feelings or euphoria, intense energy, and activity, restlessness, insomnia, agitation or irritability and tendency to engage in risky things recklessly, e.g., fast driving.

In contrast, a person who is in a depressive phase will feel hopeless and empty. He or she will have low energy, trouble sleeping or increased sleepiness, have trouble concentrating, poor insight, loss of appetite and tendency to develop feelings of suicide.

Additionally, people may also develop both mania and depression at once, in a single episode which is then referred to as an episode of mixed features where there will be extreme low moods which suddenly convert into euphoria.

Manic depression can be effectively treated with anti-psychotic and anti-depressants combined with psychotherapy, family-focused therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Difference Between Bipolar and Manic Depression

Difference Between Bipolar and Manic Depression


Bipolar: Bipolar disorder can be divided into 4 subcategories based on the severity of manic and depressive phases.

Manic Depression: Manic depression which refers to bipolar 1 is characterized by a severe episode of elevated moods (mania) followed by a period of depression.

Etiology of both conditions includes genetics, positive family history and various pathological conditions in the brain while the treatment modalities mainly include mood stabilizing drugs and psychotherapy.

Image Courtesy:

“BiopolarCoverNIHcrop” By United States National Institutes of Health (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Depressed (4649749639)” By Sander van der Wel from Netherlands – Depressed (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music