Depression and bipolar disorders
Mood disorders are illnesses
Which make a person who is suffering from them, feel emotions that are intense and prolonged and which affect their mental well-being, physical health, relations and behavior.
Although all of us go through brief episodes of “highs” and “lows”, we do not generally experience extreme emotions or prolonged mood swings. An internal control mechanism has a tendency to moderate our significant mood swings and stabilize our highs and lows.
In people suffering from depression, this internal control mechanism can be lacking. When a painful event occurs, like the death of a dear one, loss of employment, an accident or an illness, an overwhelming helplessness and hopelessness envelops them and brings upon them, a major depressive episode. Women are twice as susceptible to depression as men.
Bipolar disorder or manic depression is another major type of mood disorder. A person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder has alternating episodes of mood swings from extreme “highs” to extreme “lows”. These episodes probably have nothing to do with a life event as such and they seem to set in spontaneously and independent of any kind of trigger. Manic depression affects about 1% of the French population. Symptoms generally appear at adolescence or just on the threshold to adulthood and this illness affects both men and women equally. Apart from depression and bipolar disorder, other mood disorders include:
- Post-partum depression
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Psychotic depression
Major depressive disorder – that is often simply called “depression” is different from a simple case of “having the blues”.
A depressive person is battling against sweeping waves of hopelessness for a prolonged period. Almost all aspects of his life can be affected, notably his emotions, physical health, relations and work.
For people suffering from depression, it seems like there is “no light at the end of the tunnel”, only a long, dark tunnel.
Symptoms of depression
If you (or someone you know) show some of the following symptoms over many weeks, it is possible that you (or they) suffer from depression.
Notable symptoms are:
- Loss of interest and a lack of pleasure in any activities, including sexual relations
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Permanent emotions of sadness, anxiety, uselessness, hopelessness, guilt
- Appetite changes or weight fluctuation
- Lack of energy, the person complains of fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
- Loss or diminishing of concentration, loss of memory
- Complaints of not being in good health without any identifiable cause
- Suicidal thoughts
Some people suffer from a disorder called Dysthymia. Dysthymia is a chronic illness which causes light depression and continues for two years at the least. A person suffering from Dysthymia has a tendency to show less severe symptoms than in a major depressive disorder, but still has difficulty going about his daily life on account of what he suffers.
At the other extreme, some people can suffer from a disorder called as psychotic depression, which can cause delusions or hallucinations, in addition to the symptoms mentioned above.
Sometimes, symptoms which appear in a depressed person are “atypical”.
For example, men can go through prolonged periods of irritability or anger, rather than sadness. Since these symptoms do not denote depression, diagnosis is more difficult.
Depressed children can complain of being sick, avoid school or be extremely reticent to leave a parent. They can seem as if they are angry, less cooperative or anti-social. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to make a distinction between clinical depression of a child and a passing stage and parents can therefore erroneously conlude such behavior as “normal”.
On the other hand, depression in aged people is considered “normal” by society which could not be farther from the truth. It is not normal for senior citizens to continuously feel sadness and hopelessness.
Causes of depression and bipolar disorder
In addition to feelings of depression, a person suffering from bipolar disorder also goes through episodes of mania. When such people are suffering from mania, they present the following noticeable symptoms:
Extreme optimism, euphoria and an expansive feeling
Jostling rapid thoughts and hyperactivity
A diminishing desire for sleep
Impulsiveness and sometimes reckless behavior
A combination of factors can make a person prone to depression. The significant factors are physical ill-health, certain medicines, stress, and biochemical imbalance in the brain, hormones or the immune system, as also an inclination to have a negative outlook towards life. Family history also seems to contribute to the risk of clinical depression.
We do not know what causes bipolar disorder; even if research indicates a genetic predisposition can contribute to this state since it seems to run in families. Excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, as also stress can contribute equally to its development.
My work here consists in detecting the causes and effects of your depression and to help you manage them by avoiding intake of anti-depressants. (see my Working techniques)