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Managing clinical depression, and other mood disorders

Major depression is a behavioral problem that interferes with the person's ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy pleasurable activities. Bipolar disorder is an illness that causes extreme mood changes alternating between manic episodes of abnormally high energy and the extreme lows of depression.

Major depression

Persons who suffer from major depressive disorder often feel profound and constant hopelessness and despair. Their symptoms usually include:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts, indications, and attempts

The most serious concern for the patient and the family and the therapist for depressed patients is the possibility of suicide. For this reason, it is important for those who experience serious depression to receive professional help and interventions from the family.

Causes of depression

Major Depressive disorder is a complex disease that occur as a result of a number of different factors, including biology, emotional and environmental influences and heredity. For some, depression occurs because of a loss or a change in one's life, or after having been diagnosed with a serious medical disease. For others, depression occurs spontaneously without an environmental trigger.

Treatments for depression

The most common treatment for mild to moderate depression includes a combination of antidepressant medicine, such as serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants, with psychotherapy. The most effective psychotherapeutic treatment for depression is termed cognitive behavioral therapy. In cognitive behavior therapy, the client works with a therapist to reframe or reinterpret the client's negative perceptions of the world.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood changes which can be quite extreme. These changes may develop gradually over several days or weeks, or come on suddenly within minutes or hours. The manic and depressive episodes may last a few days, a few hours, a few days, or several months. During a manic episode, the patient may be abnormally happy, energetic, or irritable for a week or more. He may spend lots of money, get involved with dangerous activities and experience very little sleep. After a manic episode the client often returns to normal, but may also swing in the opposite direction to feelings of sadness, depression, and hopelessness. When depressed, the client may have trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.

Treating bipolar disorder

Over 3 million Americans, or about 1% of the population, suffers from bipolar disorder with similar rates existing in other countries. Bipolar disorder occurs equally among males and females. It often begins between the ages of 15 and 24. Treatment is mainly focused on selecting and managing medications, which can reduce periods of manic episodes and depressive episodes. These medications include mood stabilizers, anti psychotics, and antidepressants such as the SSRI medicines that are used for major depressive disorder. Individual psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy is an important part of the treatment.

Other mood disorders

Two additional affective disorders are dysthymia and seasonal affect disorder. Dysthymia, which is sometimes referred to as chronic depression, is a less severe form of depression. Those who suffer from dysthymia are usually able to function, but seem to be consistently unhappy. It is common for a person with dysthymia to experience periods of major depression, and then to swing back from the major depressive episode to a milder state of dysthymia. Symptoms of dysthymia include difficulty sleeping, an inability to enjoy oneself, excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness, loss of energy or fatigue, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, changes in appetite, and thoughts of death or suicide.

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