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Depression 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 to detect.

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:

  • elation
  • 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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