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Mental illness affects nearly 44 million Americans every year; mood disorders, particularly bipolar disorder and depression, are among the most common diagnoses. Research suggests that most serious mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and may be influenced or triggered by certain environmental factors. Mood disorders are considered a serious mental illness, and require treatment that may include medication, psychotherapy and support groups. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is characterized by extreme swings in a person’s mood. These mood changes often follow periods of normal behavior. Without treatment, people who suffer from bipolar disorder will often experience distressing life events such as divorce, job instability, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. People with bipolar disorder should learn to identify environmental triggers that cause their mood swings, and if possible, avoid them. Certain situations, events or even times of the year may provoke periods of depression. Stress during the holidays or busy times at work could bring about a manic or depressive episode. Not all people will be able to identify triggers such as a traumatic event or serious illness.Journals can be very useful in identifying patterns and triggers of mood changes. Notations about sleep patterns, energy level, self-esteem, concentration, sex drive and alcohol and drug use should be included in the journal. Signs that a period of mania is going to occur may include irritability, an inflated sense of self-esteem, an increase in energy, inability to concentrate, heightened creativity, an increase in sex drive, a feeling of power, and denial that anything is wrong. Indications of a depressive state may include feelings of guilt and worthlessness, sadness, loss of appetite, decreased sex drive, inability to sleep or sleep disturbances, and thinking of death and suicide.Clinical depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness. The actual cause of depression is not known, however it is believed to be associated with the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. As with bipolar disorder, there also seems to be an environmental connection in which certain events or situations can trigger a period of depression. The breakup of a relationship, troubled relationships, death of a loved one, even the loss of a pet may bring about a period of serious depression. Most people that suffer from depression will experience changes in sleep patterns and appetite. They may also feel worthless, hopeless, needlessly guilty, overwhelmingly sad, have difficulty concentrating, feel fatigued, and may lose interest in activities that normally would bring them pleasure. Stomach aches and headaches are common physical symptoms. Depression often makes people feel as though their lives are falling apart and they are powerless to stop it. Thoughts of death and suicide, and even attempted suicide are common. In addition to medication, treatment can include therapy in which patients learn to manage their emotions rather than resorting to harming themselves.
This article is made possible by Argosy University, which offers a wide selection of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs in a variety of psychology concentrations at 19 locations across the nation.
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