The dramatic mood swings of bipolar disorder do not follow a set pattern. Depression does not always follow mania. A person may experience the same mood state several times — for weeks, months, even years at a time before experiencing a change in mood. Also, the severity of mood phases can differ from person to person.
The depressive periods can be equally intense. Sadness and anxiety affect every aspect of life — thoughts, feelings, sleeping, eating, physical health, relationships, ability to function at work. If depression is not treated, it only grows worse. There may seem to be no way out of this overwhelming mood.
These depressive feelings have been described this way:
Depression: I doubt completely my ability to do anything well. It seems as though my mind has slowed down and burned out to the point of being virtually useless… . [I am] haunt[ed] … with the total, the desperate hopelessness of it all. Others say, “It’s only temporary, it will pass, you will get over it,” but, of course, they haven’t any idea of how I feel, although they are certain they do. If I can’t feel, move, think, or care, then what on earth is the point?
A depressive episode involves five or more of these symptoms most of the day — nearly every day — for two weeks or longer:
- Sad, anxious, irritability
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Loss of interest or enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncontrollable crying
- Difficulty making decisions
- Increased need for sleep
- Change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Attempting suicide
When a person with psychosis is in a depressive stage, there may be delusions of guilt or worthlessness — perhaps there is an inaccurate belief of being ruined and penniless, or having committed a terrible crime.
If untreated, depressive episodes tend to come closer together and are harder to treat. They may switch into mania. But treatment can prevent this from happening. With medication and therapy, its possible to live normally — to have a happy, productive life.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
Online source: www.WebMD.com