and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) are both
highly treatable medical illnesses. Unfortunately many people do not
get the help they need because misunderstanding the issues
surrounding the illnesses or the fear associated with stigma. The
following are brief descriptions of depression and bipolar disorder.
For more in depth information be sure to see our pages on
Depression: It's Not Just
In Your Head
Everyone, at various times in life,
feels sad or blue. It's normal to feel sad on occasion. Sometimes
this sadness comes from things that happen in your life: you move to
a different city and leave friends behind, you lose your job or a
loved one dies. But what's the difference between "normal" feelings
of sadness and the feelings caused by clinical depression?
How intense the mood is:
Depression is more intense than a simple bad mood.
How long the mood lasts: A bad mood
is usually gone in a few days, but depression lasts for two weeks or
How much it interferes with your
life: A bad mood does not keep you from going to work or school or
spending time with friends. Depression can keep you from doing
these things and may even make it difficult to get out of bed.
While it's normal for people to
experience ups and downs during their lives, those who have clinical
depression experience specific symptoms daily for two weeks or more,
making it difficult to function at work, at school, or in
Clinical depression is a treatable
illness marked by changes in mood, thought and behavior. That's why
it's called a mood disorder.
People of all ages, races, ethnic
groups, and social classes have depression. Although it can occur at
any age, the illness often develops between the ages of 25 and 44.
The lifetime prevalence of depression is 24 percent for women; for
men, it's 15 percent.
Bipolar Disorder: More than a
Bipolar disorder (also known
as manic depression) is a treatable illness marked by extreme
changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is known as
bipolar disorder because a person's mood can alternate between the
"poles" of mania (high, elevated mood) and depression (low,
depressed mood). This change in the mood or "mood swing" can last
for hours, days, weeks or even months. These "highs" and "lows" are
frequently seasonal. Many people who have bipolar disorder report
feeling symptoms of depression more often in the winter and symptoms
of mania more often in the spring.
Bipolar disorder affects more than
two million adult Americans. Like depression and other serious
illnesses, bipolar disorder can also adversely affect spouses,
family members, friends, and people in the workplace. It usually
begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during
teen years) although it can start in early childhood or as late as
the 40s and 50s. An equal number of men and women develop this
illness and it is found among all races, ethnic groups and social
classes. The illness tends to run in families.
Mood disorders are treatable
The majority of people with mood disorders are able to find
treatments that work. Talk therapy, medication or a combination of
both help the person feel better and change situations in their life
that may be contributing to their illnesses (substance abuse, bad