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Mood Disorders


Major Depression is a mood disorder. It is diagnosed after the symptoms have persisted for at least 2 weeks. Generally the person:

  • Feels sad or down
  • Has decreased interest and enjoyment
  • Experiences decreased energy
  • Feels guilty or worthless
  • Thoughts about death and suicide

Major Depression is not the same as the ups and downs in mood that many of us experience, nor is it the same as the experiences one goes through when grieving for a loss.

Major Depression is quite common in that 10% of the general population may experience it at some time in life. In 50% of cases, major depression is recurrent; that is, half the people will experience more than one episode.

Major Depression is caused by an imbalance of two brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are serotonin and norepinephrine. Genetic factors are thought to be involved, as major depression seems to run in some families. Stress is not a 'cause' but can 'start the ball rolling'. Major depression can occur at any time in life.


This illness used to be called manic-depressive illness. There are several phases:

Manic Phase:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Grandiosity
  • Increased energy
  • Increase in talkativeness
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (which may have positive or negative consequences such as shopping sprees)

Depressed Phase:

  • Same as major depression

Residual Phase:

  • Usually less severe symptoms
  • Many recover completely
  • May look different for different individuals


Bipolar disorder is common in that it occurs in 1% of the population.
It is a chemical imbalance in the brain with an excess of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Genetics play a strong role but family history is not always present. It may also be influenced by stress.

Course of Illness:

There may be an increase in episodes with age but the illness is usually better controlled with treatment over the years.

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