Everyone gets in a bad mood from time to time. Temporary feelings of anger, sadness, and irritability are common and often normal reactions to stress in our lives. A mood disorder, however, is different; It affects a person’s everyday emotional state. Nearly one in ten people age 18 and older have mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. The good news is that with treatment, most people with mood disorders are able to lead productive lives. Most adults see an improvement in their symptoms when treated with antidepressant drugs, talk therapy (psychotherapy), or a combination of both.
“Depressive disorder,” or “clinical depression,” as doctors call it, is a very real illness–you can’t just “snap out of it.” When a person has depression, it interferes with daily life and normal functioning. This can cause pain for both the person with depression and those who care about him or her, as well as negatively impact sleep, relationships, your job, and your appetite. Sadness is only a small part of depression. In fact, some people may not feel sadness at all. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in the teens or early 20s or 30s. Many factors play a role in depression, including genetics, brain biology and chemistry, and life events such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, an early childhood experience, or any stressful situation. Even the most severe cases of depression can be treated. The earlier treatment begins, the more effective it is.
Also known as manic-depressive illness, this is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, along with changes in sleep patterns and activity levels. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are drastically different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the person.
Diagnosis and treatment can help many people—even those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder—gain better control of their mood swings and other symptoms. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of mood changes, but some people may have lingering symptoms. Long-term, continuous treatment can help control these symptoms.