and Associated Symptoms
But for some people, low mood can be much
more serious. It can paralyse a person's ability to get on with life - it can
make them feel that there is no hope, and no point, in carrying on.
What are the symptoms?
As with many mental health problems there are a number of
symptoms; it's very rare for all symptoms to occur in one person. Unsurprisingly,
the symptoms of depression include feeling generally miserable, and in addition
to this other symptoms are:
- Variation of mood over the day. It is often worse in the morning, and improves
as the day goes on - but the pattern can be the other way around
- Disturbed, sleep usually waking early in the morning and being unable to
get back to sleep. This is often because of all the negative thoughts that
are racing through your head
- A general slowing down of thought, speech and movement
- Feelings of anxiety
- Tearfulness for no reason
- Shorter temper
- Lack of energy and constant exhaustion
- Inability to enjoy things
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feeling that you are forgetful
- Negative thoughts about the future
- Feelings of guilt
- Loss of identity
- Blaming self and low self esteem
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Unrealistic sense of failure
- Loneliness, even when amongst people
- Becoming pre-occupied with illness
- Loss of appetite and as a result loss of weight, and
- Reduced sex drive
This presents a very bleak picture. However, it is important
to remember that depression is not an absolute; it is not a case of either you
are depressed or you are not. There is a progression from simply feeling blue,
to the full clinical illness described in this list. Even then, not every symptom
will occur. It is also important to remember that depression is treatable, and
if you take the right steps, can be avoidable.
How common is it?
Though we all suffer low moods, from 7% to 12% of men will
suffer diagnosable depression in their lifetime. The figure is from 20% to 25%
for women. There are many theories as to why the figure is higher for women.
The incidence of post-natal depression certainly contributes to the higher number.
Other theories include views on the position of women in society, and the difficulties
they face in achieving life goals. It could also be that women may tend to be
more honest about their emotions than men - and hence their depression is easier
Manic depression and associated symptoms
The world would be a very boring place if everybody's mood was constantly neither
happy nor sad. Our mood is rarely completely stable - little things make us
feel 'up,' or annoyed or sad.
Some people are aware of larger patterns in their mood. For some, spring is
a time of lifted mood as the weather starts to improve, and winter is a time
of lowered mood as the nights draw in. Some women notice distinct changes of
mood with different phases of their menstrual cycle.
It is not the recurring pattern of these moods that causes problems, it is the
severity. In bi-polar disorder the mood swings are not like the normal highs
and lows of daily life. It is characterised by extreme mood swings, from deep
depression to extreme elation or 'highs.' These severe highs and lows may alternate,
or there may be long periods of stability between them. Some people with the
diagnosis suffer mainly from depression, with only occasional manic phases.
During a manic or high phase, people feel enormously energetic and powerful
and tend to become hyperactive, going without sleep and starting totally unrealistic
schemes or projects. Some people find they are very creative. However, problems
arise when the mood spins out of control and the person behaves in ways that
they later find deeply embarrassing. It is quite common for someone to lose
touch with reality and, for example, run up enormous debts or invite total strangers
to their home. There can also be unfortunate consequences of decisions taken
while very high in mood.
The depressive phase is similar to other forms of depression. It is characterised
by a lack of energy and interest in life, low self-esteem, and feelings of guilt
and despair. Sometimes the person will be suicidal.
The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not known, but stressful life events,
irresolvable problems, or emotional damage in childhood may play a part, possibly
combined with genetic factors.
What are the symptoms?
It is important to distinguish between the three elements of this condition:
- depressive symptoms
- manic symptoms
- the cycle of these moods
The symptoms of depression are listed above
Symptoms of mania can include:
- short temper
- changing from short temper to elation - and back again very quickly
- over activity
- easily distracted
- not sleeping
- over eating
- increase in sexual desire
- moving very quickly from topic to topic in conversation - making it very
difficult for others to keep up
- speaking so quickly that it is difficult to understand all the words that
the person says
- having very grand ideas
Then there is the cycle that these sets of symptoms can occur in. This can
come in several varieties:
- Mixed. It is possible for a person to have many of the symptoms of mania,
and yet also suffer from severely depressive thoughts. This is especially
so if the person experiencing the mania has insight into what is happening
to them. Though the symptoms of mania can sound quite pleasant - it can also
feel as though you are losing control
- Cycles. Symptoms of mania can be followed by symptoms of depression in an
almost regular pattern. These swings in mood can occur over a period of anything
from days to months. Less commonly, some people may experience only depression
or mania, but within a regular recurring pattern
How common is it?
About 1% of people will develop bipolar disorder in their lifetime. If you
have relatives with bipolar disorder, then your chance of developing it is higher
- about 12% of people with a brother or sister with bipolar disorder will develop
the condition themselves.
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