“My mom says that symptoms of a mood disorder began when I was 11 or 12,” Tim Z. writes in his Heroes In Recovery story. “I was anxious all the time. I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about my dad when he would go play shows as a musician. My parents got divorced when I was 14. I wound up being a troubled kid. I did drugs, I cut class, I vandalized things. My grades went down the drain.” Drinking became his escape, and he spiraled into a deep depression.
“The chaos in my head was so bad that I couldn’t make sense of anything. I still don’t have many meaningful relationships other than family because my brain goes into chaos and I spiral into a manic episode. The cycle continued until finally I realized I was bleeding in my car and I realized I had a problem that wasn’t going to go away and I needed help. My brain felt broken, and no matter what, I had to find out how to fix it.”
Any mental disorder that primarily targets the constant emotional state, or mood, of a person in a negative way is known as a mood disorder.1 This means that people like Tim Z. who suffer from mood disorders do not have bad moods or attitudes as a result of choice or natural personality, but as a result of a physical condition. Understanding mood disorders can help you or a loved one recognize when there is a problem and get help. Many people do not realize that a mood disorder is a medical condition that qualifies for treatment just like other diseases. Two of the most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder, which includes both depression and episodes of mania. Both of these disorders can be treated successfully.
Depression makes you feel like you don’t have the energy to do what you need to do. You might feel like you’ve become uninteresting, or at least uninterested in things that you enjoyed in the past. Your life gets harder to deal with, and things don’t seem to bring joy like they used to. You want to sleep a lot, or you can’t sleep at all. When you get invited somewhere, you might feel tense and too tired to accept, but guilty of you don’t. If you don’t get invited somewhere, you may feel unloved, even though you probably wouldn’t go if invited. You may feel that others see you as uncaring and this makes you retreat further into isolation. Problems can seem overwhelming, options cloudy or far-off, and hope dissipates.
Some suffer from depression in conjunction with life changes, and others deal with it throughout their lives. Depression can come with pregnancy as the result of hormonal imbalance. Depression is more than just feeling sad.
“You are not your illness! I hate it when people say “I’m being so bipolar” or “I’m OCD about such and such”. You can’t be any of those things. You can have OCD or BPD, but you are not them. They do not define you. You are still you, and you’re probably pretty awesome.” —Tim Z., HeroesInRecovery.com
Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depression because a bipolar person is depressed sometimes, and full of energy and excitement at other times. However, these changes in mood are confusing, uncontrollable, and extreme. A person who suffers from bipolar disorder seems difficult to figure out, because sometimes something seems to make that person happy, and other times he or she may seem upset or sad for no reason. Nearly 6 million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder.2
Bipolar disorder is often mistaken for depression. Treatment for depression and bipolar disorder are different. If you are receiving treatment for depression, look for the manic or hypo-manic symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as the following:3
- Seriously decreased need for sleep
- Feeling very talkative and possibly being unable to stop talking
- Ideas racing through your head
- Ability to pay attention to everything, even things that aren’t important
- Feeling super goal oriented
- Alternating between excitement about having fun, anger, or extreme and forceful sadness
If you are being treated for depression and you experience manic periods, tell your doctor right away. The antidepressants used to treat depression can actually make the bipolar disorder worse. With the right treatment, people with bipolar disorder can live healthy and happy lives.
“A diagnosis of a mental illness is not a death sentence,” Tim Z., says. “ Actually I think of it as the opposite. It’s saying, “Hey, I think I need help, so I’m going to go get it so that I can have a better quality of life.” Remember– your brain is everything. If that’s not working, what do you have?”
Help for Mood Disorders
There are many treatment options for those who struggle with depression or bipolar disorder. These may include natural remedies, medication, specialized intensive therapy or even therapeutic group exercises or activities. If you or a loved one struggle with depression or you think you are bipolar, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.