Marked by changes in mood, depression and bipolar disorder (also referred to as manic depression) are both highly treatable medical conditions.

Depression: It’s Not Just in Your Head

Everyone, at times, feels sad or blue. It’s normal to feel sad on occasion. Sometimes, sadness is a result of things that happen in your life. But what’s the difference between “normal” feelings of sadness and the feelings caused by depression?

Intensity: Depression is more intense than a simple “bad mood.”
How long it lasts: A bad mood is usually gone in a few days, but depression lasts two weeks or longer.
How much it interferes with your life: A bad mood doesn’t keep you from going to work or school or spending time with friends. Depression can keep you from doing these things and may even make it difficult to get out of bed.

Depression is a treatable illness marked by changes in mood, thought and behavior. It affects people of all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. Although it can occur at any age, the illness often surfaces between the ages of 25 and 44. The “lifetime prevalence” of depression is 24 percent for women and 15 percent for men. This means that, at some point in their lives, 24 percent of women and 15 percent of men will experience an episode of major depression.

How to Recognize Depression

• Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
• No interest in or pleasure from activities once enjoyed
• Worry, anxiety
• Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
• Irritability, anger, agitation
• Pessimism, indifference
• Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness
• Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
• Excessive consumption of alcohol or use of chemical substances
• Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Bipolar Disorder: More Than a Mood Swing

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is called bipolar disorder because a person’s mood can alternate between the “poles”: mania (high, elevated mood) and depression (low, depressed mood). These changes in mood (“mood swings”) can last for hours, days, weeks or even months.

Bipolar disorder affects nearly six (6) million adult Americans and an equal number of men and women. It tends to run in families and is found among all races, ethnic groups and social classes. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during the teen years), although it can start in early childhood or as late as the 40s and 50s.

How to Recognize Mania

• Increased physical and mental activity and energy
• Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence
• Excessive irritability, aggressive behavior
• Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue
• Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-importance
• Racing thoughts
• Impulsiveness, poor judgement, distractibility
• Reckless behavior such as spending sprees, rash business decisions, erratic driving and sexual indiscretions
• In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations
• Excessive pursuit of pleasure (e.g., financial or sexual) without thinking of consequences

Anxiety: Life Interference

Anxiety is your mind and body’s natural response to events that are threatening. The right amount of anxiety can help you, but too much anxiety can interfere with your life.

Some worry and anxiety is normal for everyone. But when anxiety is severe, lasts for several weeks and includes symptoms that keep you from doing things you usually would, it may be something to discuss with you health care professional. Anxiety symptoms are real, they are not just in your head. They can be treated, and they are nothing to be ashamed of.

How to Recognize Anxiety

• Worry
• Fears
• Thoughts that don’t go away
• Avoidance of people, places or things
• Compulsions
• Restlessness
• Aches, pains
• Rapid heartbeat
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• Faintness
• Dry mouth
• Sweating
• Shaking
• Difficulty breathing

Mood Disorders Are Treatable

The majority of people with mood disorders are able to find treatments that work. Talk therapy, medication or a combination of both help individuals feel better and change situations in their lives that may be contributing to their illnesses (substance use, harmful relationships, etc.).