Depression and bipolar mood disorders

Most people feel sad or irritable from time to time. A mood disorder however is more than just a passing emotion, you cannot just snap out of it at will and it can persist for a long time if it is not addressed. Depending on the severity of the mood disorder, psychotherapy can significantly reduce and sometimes even eliminate the symptoms. Other times, psychotherapy is best combined with medication.

  • Major Depressive Disorder

Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from depression and may need professional help. Bear in mind that the list is far from complete and that the severity and number of symptoms will also vary from person to person and can change over time.

    • you feel sad, empty or hopeless most of the time
    • you feel worthless or experience excessive guilt
    • you’ve lost interest in friends, activities, and things you used to enjoy
    • you feel tired all the time 
    • your sleep and appetite has changed
    • you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
    • you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
    • you are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
    • you experience recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder often runs in families. In addition to the depressive lows described above, those with bipolar disorder will also shift into extreme highs or agitated states. The highs are called mania in bipolar I, or the less severe hypomania in bipolar II. These shifts are not mood swings. They usually don’t occur over a short period but rather over days, weeks, months or even years. 

The depressed state can seem identical to a major depressive episode except that antidepressant medication can trigger a manic episode in those with bipolar. Individuals in the manic stage often experience:

    • inflated self-esteem
    • decreased need for sleep
    • high energy and increased agitation
    • racing thoughts
    • pressure to keep talking
    • set grand goals
    • engage in risk-taking activities such as spending excessively or hypersexuality

People in this state make poor decisions that can cause major disruption in their personal and occupational lives. Medication can be effective in controlling these moods. Research has shown that patients taking medication to treat bipolar disorder are more likely to get well faster and stay well if they receive psychotherapy in conjunction with medication.