Manic Depression

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Manic depression is a condition involving both depressive and manic episodes. It can be managed with adequate medication, therapy, and rehabilitation. However, if severe manic depression is left untreated, it can lead to early mortality, functional disability, and compromised quality of life.

What Is Manic Depression?

Manic depression is a mood disorder, consisting of alternating episodes of persistent low mood, or depression, and persistent elevated mood, or mania. It is characterized by unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. 1

Manic Depression vs. Bipolar Disorder

Is there a difference between manic depression and bipolar disorder? Or are they same?

While the two terms sound quite different, the former appearing to be a subtype of depression, and the latter painting a picture of a person with two polarized mood states constantly swinging from one to other, in reality, manic depression and bipolar disorder are the same.

“Manic depression” is simply an older word for bipolar disorder.

The first use of this term can probably be traced back to Emil Kraeplin who called the condition “manic depressive insanity”.

Later, the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published in 1952 incorporated the term Manic Depression and categorized it as a psychotic disorder.

The DSM III, in 1980, was the first to describe this illness as ‘Bipolar Disorder’ with detailed diagnostic criteria and specific descriptions of a depressive episode and a manic episode. 2

Currently, the term manic depression is not used in clinical practice. This could be due to the following reasons:

  • Years of research have found “bipolar disorder” to better encompass the range of symptoms that characterize this illness.
  • With time, there has been a sophistication in the way mental disorders are classified, thus leading to this shift in terminology.
  • “Bipolar” avoids the stigma associated with the term “manic” which is sometimes used derogatorily.
  • The earlier classification of “manic depression” mainly focused on the emotional aspect of the disorder, whereas bipolar disorder takes into account the physical and cognitive aspects as well.

Read In Details About Bipolar Disorder Here

Myths About Manic Depression

Since the term has not been in popular use for a while, there are a few myths that exist regarding “manic depression”:

1. Manic depression is primarily a depressive disorder.

Although the term may suggest that this is a subtype of depression, that is not entirely true since there needs to be at least one episode of mania or hypomania for it to be called manic depression, or bipolar disorder 3.

2. Manic depression is a psychotic disorder.

In earlier versions of the DSM, manic depression was classified as a psychotic disorder. Currently however, bipolar disorder comes under the classification of mood disorders. It may or may not have psychotic symptoms 2.

3. A person may have manic depression but not bipolar disorder.

This is not true, since manic depression and bipolar disorder are taken to mean the same thing 1.

4. In manic depression, symptoms of mania and depression occur at the same time.

There may be episodes wherein a person experiences both mania and depression in rapid succession, also known as a mixed episode. However, that does not happen for all kinds of bipolar disorder 4.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How fast does manic depression start?

The onset of manic depression episodes can happen within a few weeks, or sometimes even days.

2. How is mania different from manic depression?

Mania, or unipolar mania, refers to a condition in which a person feels persistently elated, and experiences high levels of energy. Manic depression is accompanied by episodes of depression as well.

3. What links manic depression and sleep?

Disturbances in sleep can be caused because of either depression or mania. In a manic episode, there is usually a decreased need for sleep whereas, in a depressive episode, there could be excessive sleeping as well as insomnia.

4. What is the difference between depression and manic depression?

Depression, or unipolar depression, is characterized by persistent low mood and a loss of interest in activities earlier found pleasurable. In manic depression, episodes of depression are accompanied by manic episodes, characterized by persistently elevated mood, and over-optimism among other symptoms.

5. Can you have manic depression without being bipolar?

Currently, the terms ‘manic depression’ and ‘bipolar disorder’ are taken to mean the same thing. The assumption that bipolar disorder is a different condition is one of the few myths about manic depression.

6. What is the difference between manic depression and schizophrenia?

Manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is now considered to be a mood disorder, whereas schizophrenia is regarded as a psychotic disorder. The two are completely different conditions.

👇 References:
  1. Bipolar Disorder. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); Retrieved August 22, 2022, from [][]
  2. Mason, B. L., Brown, E. S., & Croarkin, P. E. (2016). Historical Underpinnings of Bipolar Disorder Diagnostic Criteria. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 14. [][]
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). []
  4. Muneer A. (2017). Mixed States in Bipolar Disorder: Etiology, Pathogenesis and Treatment. Chonnam medical journal, 53(1), 1–13. []
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