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The Warning Signs of Depression and Bipolar Disorder

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The Warning Signs of Depression and Bipolar Disorder

The Mayo Clinic describes mental health disorders as conditions that negatively affect mood, thoughts, behavior, and quality of life. While everyone experiences highs and lows, disorders like depression and bipolar typically stem from genetic vulnerabilities and severely hinder a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life. The National Alliance on Mental Illness emphasizes that mental health disorders are unrelated to character, morals, and matters of strength and weakness. In fact, people make a serious miscalculation when they believe they can overcome such disorders merely using willpower. According to statistics shared by the National Institute of Mental Health website, 2.6% of US adults experienced bipolar disorder in the previous year, 83% of which were severe cases. Meanwhile, the past-year prevalence for major depression was 7%, making it one of the most common mental health disorders in the country. ABC News in 2007 noted that only about half of depressed individuals receive proper treatment, which highlights the need to identify warning signs and pursue the necessary response.

Signs of Depression

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) website provides a list of potential warning signs for depression, which include persistent sadness, pessimism, anxiety, poor decision making, problems concentrating, fatigue, diminished motivation, energy loss and feelings of guilt, emptiness and hopelessness. Furthermore depressed individuals commonly lose interest in previously enjoyed activities and withdrawal socially from friends and loved ones.

How do people tell the difference between depression and sadness that occurs after a loss? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013 noted the differences, which include the following:

  • Natural sadness typically involves alternating waves of grief and positive memories.
  • The emotions experienced during depression tend to be entirely negative.
  • Self-esteem and self-worth generally remain intact during times of sadness.
  • Depression is associated with failing self-esteem and corrosive self-loathing.
  • Bereavement-related sadness, however, can unmask genetic predisposition to depression.

Under the depression umbrella, several variations occur. Among the different types, persistent depressive disorder (i.e., chronic depression, dysthymia) involves symptoms lasting more than two years. Psychotic depression includes some form of psychosis or delusions. Postpartum is a form related to childbirth, and seasonal affective disorder only occurs in the winter when natural sunlight decreases.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

The Warning Signs of Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Valeriya Simantovskaya/Stocksy United

Bipolar disorder is another variation also called manic depression, and it differentiates itself from extreme mood swings between sadness and mania. The mood swings clinically referred to as episodes, include the following:

  • Depressive episode
  • Manic episode
  • Mixed state

Depressive episodes involve the emergence of classic depression symptoms while a mixed state is symptoms of depression and mania occurring at the same time. There are several potential symptoms of a manic episode including the following:

  • A hyperactive state characterized by rapid speech and body movement
  • Racing thoughts, flights of ideas, and subjective experiences
  • Delusions of grandeur that exaggerate self-importance and abilities
  • Decrease in the average hours of sleep necessary each day
  • Increase in activity directed at social, work, or sexual goals
  • Easily distracted by irrelevant and unimportant items

Various cues can trigger an episode, which can start suddenly without warning. The behavioral consequences can include aggression, emotional frailty, impulsive risk, and confrontation.

Mood Disorders and Addiction

Substance abuse is another risk factor involved in mood disorders like depression and bipolar. The National Institute of Mental Health argues that untreated disorders can help initiate substance abuse while the National Institute on Drug Abuse says substance abuse can trigger a disorder’s symptoms. A study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2005 took an extensive look at co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders and noted several key connections including the following:

  • Addiction and mood disorders are arguably different expressions of similar neurobiological abnormalities.
  • Repeated substance abuse causes biological changes that share abnormal elements mediating certain disorders.
  • Overlapping affected brain regions include the frontal-limbic circuits, anterior cingulate, and amygdala.
  • Overlapping neurochemical systems include corticotropin-releasing factor, serotonergic, dopaminergic, glutamatergic and hypothalamic.

A study published by the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2002 said depressed individuals often have hypersensitive responses to brain reward that further increases the appeal of substance abuse. Though the statistics vary between studies, most suggest that addiction and mental health disorder comorbidity occur more often than not.

How to Respond to Mood Disorders

Due to the high comorbidity rates, most rehab centers can provide treatment for addiction, mental health disorders or both at the same time. Most addicts will undergo supervised detox, but several therapies commonly used in rehab are available to treat either condition. Examples include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Contingency Management, among others. Professional treatment is always the best option because it limits potential harm and produces more positive recovery outcomes.

If you believe you might suffer from addiction, depression, bipolar or a similar mental health disorder, several next-step options are available including the following:

  • Speak with your family doctor about your symptoms.
  • Consult with a mental health specialist or counselor.
  • Join a mental health support group and ask for advice.
  • Inform loved ones of your concerns and plan of action.
  • Ask loved ones to provide accountability and understanding.
  • Check your health insurance policy for treatment coverage.

For specific guidance call our toll-free helpline and speak with one of our admissions coordinators. We are available 24 hours a day to discuss treatment options, make recommendations and even look up health insurance policies. For free help and guidance, please call now.

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