Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let's love turbulence and use it for change.
- Ramsay Clark
We all experience changes in mood. Times of sadness or disappointment are natural reactions to the difficulties that occur in our lives. The loss of a loved one, problems at work or a deteriorating relationship can cause us to feel depressed. Similarly, a great success or relief from a problem makes us feel happy and content.
Our moods tend to be varied and shifting, but generally we feel as though we have some control over them. However, for people with mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, that sense of control is missing and that causes distress. Anyone who has experienced a major depression or a manic episode can readily tell you the difference between those illnesses and their own normal feelings of sadness or happiness.
Severe or prolonged depression is an illness that affects not only a person’s emotions, but also physical health, relationships and behavior. More than 2 million American adults, or about 1 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is an illness in which there are periods of serious depression, followed by episodes of markedly elevated or irritable moods or “highs” (in the absence of drugs or alcohol). These mood swings are not necessarily related to events in the person’s life.
Bipolar Disorder is not to be confused with mild mood swings. Those suffering from Bipolar Disorder lead very unstable lives, and the potential of mania or depression is a constant problem for them.
It is not known what causes bipolar disorder. Research suggests that people with the condition have a genetic predisposition – it tends to run in families. Drug abuse and stressful or traumatic events may contribute to or trigger episodes.
Symptoms of mania include:
- Feelings of euphoria, extreme optimism, exaggerated self-esteem
- Rapid speech, racing thoughts
- Decreased need for sleep
- Extreme irritability
- Impulsive and potentially reckless behavior
Symptoms of the depression phase are the same as in major depression, described elsewhere on our website.
Treatment is Available
Depression and bipolar disorder are treatable. Learning to recognize the signs and triggers enables people to work with their doctors, other health professionals, family and friends to prevent recurrences from becoming severe.
The great majority of depressed people respond to treatment and nearly all who seek treatment will get some relief from their symptoms. Both medication and some forms of counseling or psychotherapy have been demonstrated to be effective.
Bipolar disorder is mainly treated with medication and psychotherapy. Medication helps to stabilize moods, while therapy helps people detect patterns and triggers and develop strategies for managing stress. Sometimes, in very severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments, electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is used.
Many people do not seek help for depression or bipolar disorder, sometimes because their symptoms prevent them from recognizing the seriousness of their situation. It can also result from the stigma that surrounds both of these conditions, making people feel like they are weak or somehow at fault. It is important to know that depression and bipolar disorder are treatable. Friends and family can be supportive by learning all they can about the condition affecting their loved one.
At Potomac Psychiatry our psychiatrists and therapists specialize in treating bipolar disorder, Call 301.984.9791 to contact us, discuss your needs and schedule an appointment. Our experienced professionals look forward to meeting you.