Mood Disorders (Depression)

What is Depression?

Depression is a clinical term used to describe a long period of time when a person feels very sad or irritable to the point of feeling worthless, hopeless, and helpless, with a loss of the ability to enjoy life. Depression can affect all aspects of life; for example, school, social, or family pressures may become too much to handle.

Depression may be caused by such things as stress, loss, disappointment, or a chemical imbalance in your body. Sometimes, there is no known reason.

Children and youth who are considered at risk for depression include:

  • children with a family history of depression
  • children with medical problems
  • children who have experienced a trauma (e.g., abuse, witness violence)
  • incarcerated youth
  • pregnant youth

What are the signs?

Some signs of depression include:

  • sadness or crying more than usual
  • loss of interest or lack of motivation
  • irritability or rage
  • social isolation or withdrawal from friends
  • sleeping problems
  • change in appetite
  • change in school performance
  • fatigue
  • decreased concentration
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • negative self statements (e.g., “I’m stupid”)
  • suicidal statements

What can you do if you think someone may be depressed? Talk…

  • don’t ignore the depression
  • show you care
  • ask about his/her feelings
  • show it is OK to talk about it
  • check with other professionals (e.g., family doctor, teachers, school counselors, crisis lines)

What is Bipolar? (Also referred to as Manic Depression)

Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that involves changes in brain function that result in dramatic mood swings – intense highs followed by devastating lows. When these symptoms become moderate to severe and negatively affect the ability to function at home, at work or at school, the condition is called manic depression or bipolar disorder. It is not known what causes bipolar but research shows that genetics may play a strong role. Effective treatment is often a combination of several things – from medication to education, psychotherapy and family support.

What are the signs?

In the manic phase, the person experiences or displays some of the following:

  • Little or no sleep
  • Very talkative
  • Difficult to follow the person’s thinking
  • Highly distractible
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Inflated sense of power and greatness
  • Engaging in reckless behaviours – impulsive spending or inappropriate sexual activity
  • Psychotic symptoms – hearing and seeing things that are not there

In the depressive phase, the person experiences some of the following:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Interrupted or excessive sleep
  • Changes in appetite with weight loss or gain
  • Multiple physical aches and pains with no known cause
  • Difficulty with memory and concentration

What can I do?

  • Seek medical attention from your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. A doctor will be able to work with you to develop the most appropriate form of treatment.
  • Visit your local community health centre. For community health centres in your region, contact your local Regional Health Authority.
  • Talk to family and friends.
  • Educate yourself – understand the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Sources & Resources:

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