About Mood Disorders
Marked by changes in mood, depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) are both highly treatable, medical illnesses. Unfortunately, many people don’t get the help they need because of the misunderstanding 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 and bipolar disorder and the differences between them.
Depression: It’s Not Just in Your Head
It’s normal to feel sad on occasion. Sometimes, sadness is a result of things that happen in your life: for example, 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 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 two weeks or longer.
How much it interferes with your life: A bad mood doesn’t 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.
Bipolar Disorder: More Than a Mood Swing
Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. It is called bipolar disorder because a person’s mood can alternate between the “poles” of mania (high, elevated mood) and depression (low, depressed mood). These changes in mood (“mood swings”) can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months. These highs and lows are frequently seasonal. Many people with bipolar disorder report feeling symptoms of depression more often in the winter and symptoms of mania more often in the spring.
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 individuals feel better and change situations in their lives that may be contributing to their illnesses (substance use, harmful relationships, etc.).