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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tarra Bates-Duford

Mimics of Depression:10 Common Signs of Depression

Unfortunately, many medical and psychiatric illnesses often mimic or “look like” other mental and medical illnesses, making it difficult to distinguish and properly identify the illness. Very often many medical and psychiatric may even share some of the same symptoms. Unfortunately, some psychiatric and medical illnesses—as well as normal or typically expected reactions to stressors—have symptoms that overlap with those of depressive disorders, including outwardly sad or dysphoric appearance, irritability, cognition issues, apathy, fatigue, difficulty focusing, indecisiveness, social withdrawal and or isolation, and sleep disturbances.

Bipolar disorder, which was formerly called manic depression, causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). It is important to take time monitor and properly identify symptoms rather that jumping to the conclusion that depression may be at fault for current symptoms. Often, when we experience depressive symptoms we become emotionally deflated, experience significant feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and experience a loss of interest in things we once found enjoyable. For individuals suffering from bipolar disorder they can experience all the symptoms related to depression, however, a thorough evaluation and monitoring of symptoms is needed to say with certainty the individual is experiencing only depressive symptoms rather than solely manic or hypomanic symptoms. When observing only oppressed and depressed symptoms a person suffering from bipolar disorder can be erroneously diagnosed as suffering from depression rather than bipolar disorder. Careful monitoring is necessary to not only avoid misdiagnosis but to prevent those suffering from bipolar disorder from being prescribed depression medication which can exacerbate bipolar symptoms, making them more pronounced.

Common signs of Depression:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

  • Loss of interest in friends, activities, and things once enjoyed

  • Chronic feelings of fatigue

  • Interruptions in sleeping and eating pattern

  • Difficulty concentrating and completing tasks

  • Negative thoughts

  • Irritability

  • Alcohol or drug consumption

  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

  • Reckless behavior


Mathew is a 28-year-old single male struggling to find employment. Mathew has been searching unsuccessfully for a job for more than one year since the company he worked for buckled under financial burden. After several months of unemployment Mathew began to experience familiar symptoms he thought was well behind him. Mathew was diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost 7 years ago and had been managing his symptoms fairly well without medication and individual psychotherapy. Once Mathew lost his job he was unable to continue receiving individual therapy because his insurance lapsed. After behaving erratically in a local supermarket, police were called to intervene and Mathew was transported to a local hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital Mathew informed the attending physician he had been previously diagnosed with depression. During the assessment Mathew appeared extremely depressed, held negative thoughts, with hopeless symptoms (he was actually experiencing the depressive side of his bipolar disorder). Mathew did not have a previous diagnosis of depression, he suffered from and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Mathew felt it would be less stigmatizing to disclose a “soft diagnosis” such as depression rather than a “hard diagnosis” like bipolar disorder. Are there any health concerns related to the false information Mathew has given his doctor?

#Depression #bipolar #Manic #Symptoms #Mimics

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