A third type of depressive disorder is bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness. This disorder, which is much less common than major depression, is characterized by a pattern of cycling between periods of depression and elation. These cycles, or “mood swings,” can be rapid, but most often occur gradually over time. When in the depressed part of the cycle, the person can experience any of the symptoms of depression. When the person moves into the manic or¬†elated phase, however, he or she can experience irritability, severe insomnia, inappropriate social behavior (like going on spending sprees), talking rapidly with disconnected thoughts, increased energy, poor judgment, and increased sexual desire.
There is strong evidence that bipolar disorder is largely an inherited condition, and many people with this disorder respond well to medication.
Some symptoms of bipolar disorder are –
- High energy with a decreased need for sleep
- Extreme irritability
- Rapid and unpredictable mood changes
- An exaggerated belief in one’s abilities
- Impulsive actions with damaging consequences (e.g., charging up credit cards, sudden love affairs, etc.).
Two other forms of depression –
Post-Partum Depression is linked to hormonal changes following the birth of a child. This can be a serious form of depression, sometimes with psychotic features, but most sufferers respond well to treatment. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is found among those who are sensitive to the shorter days of winter, especially those who live at northern latitudes. Many people with SAD respond to daily exposure to full spectrum lighting.
A depressive disorder is a serious condition which affects virtually every aspect of a person’s everyday life experiences. It is not a sign of personal weakness, although many depressed people feel guilty about not being stronger and tend to blame themselves. It is not possible just to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” in order to get better. The sufferer should find the help of a trained professional. A depression is a time for introspection and reflection, a time to discover what has gone wrong and what can be made better. A trained professional can help the person with depression begin to see things in a more positive light.
Many people respond to psychotherapy alone in their treatment for depression. Others are helped by a combination of therapy and an antidepressant medication. Medications can facilitate the healing process. People also benefit by acquiring the life tools that are learned in psychotherapy. Recent studies have indicated that medication alone without psychotherapy doesn’t work in the long run as well as psychotherapy alone or psychotherapy used in conjunction with medication.
What is most encouraging about this devastating condition is that so many people do get better when they find the appropriate treatment!