Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorders are a group of mood disorders which have a cyclical nature. As well as sufferers having periods of mood elevation, they may have periods of low mood, and have other times when their mood is in the normal range. These disorders vary in severity. Some people may have a relatively mild disorder that only occasionally interferes with their life, while others may have severe ongoing problems with disabling mood disorder and instability.

Most sufferers (and their families) find bipolar disorder to be profoundly disruptive to their life and disabling in many areas. There can be impacts on their work, relationships, and personal life. Though there can be some periods when they can be very productive and constructive, on balance there is much more disability than benefit.

There are a range of social and psychological treatments that are now available, as well as medicines to help most stages of the disorder. For some patients, electroconvulsive therapy can be life-saving.

It is important to recognise that the illness impacts not only on the sufferer, but also their family, friends, workmates, and others they might meet. Psychological and social rehabilitation form an integral part of most treatments that are now offered.

When troubled by the illness, or knowing someone dear to you who is troubled by the illness, it is important to recognise that assessment and treatment are available. It is quite common when feeling ill to feel that there is no hope or prospect of recovery, or alternatively to feel there is nothing wrong when others about you feel that you are not at all in good health. These are misperceptions, as effective assessment and treatment is available.

The point of first contact would normally be your local general practitioner, or alternatively in a crisis it might be through a telephone counselling service, or the Emergency Department of your nearest General Hospital. After evaluation, treatment may be offered right away, or a recommendation made for further evaluation by a psychiatrist, either as an outpatient, or in hospital leading to the commencement of effective treatment. Community groups, resources and services can also be helpful elements in knowing about the illness and in the process of recovery.

Treatment usually needs to be long-term though this depends on individual circumstances.

Knowledge about bipolar disorders and their treatments can reduce unnecessary anxieties or fears. Knowledge can also help to destigmatise this illness and its treatment.

Depressive Disorders

While almost everyone at times feels blue or sad, these feelings are usually transient. When a person has a depressive disorder, the disorder interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes substantial distress for both the person with the disorder and significant others in the person’s life. Depression is one of the most common disorders and is expected to become the leading burden of disability by 2020 in developed countries. Fortunately, depression is treatable and most people will get better.
Sadly, many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. There are a range of options for managing depression including medications, psychotherapies and other medical and lifestyle methods to treat people with this disabling disorder.

The most common forms of depressive disorders are Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder.

Major Depressive Disorder, also called Major Depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, relate to others, eat, and enjoy previously pleasurable activities. It is disabling and may prevent a person from functioning normally. Some people may only have a single episode of major depression in their lifetime but, more often, can recur throughout a person’s life.
Dysthymic disorder, or Dysthymia, is characterized by long–term (two years or longer) but less severe symptoms that may not disable a person but can prevent one from functioning normally or feeling well. People with Dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of Major Depression during their lifetimes.
Psychotic Depression occurs when a severe depressive illness is accompanied by symptoms of psychosis, which may include hallucinations and delusions (false beliefs).
Postpartum Depression occurs after a new mother develops a major depressive episode within one month after the birth of a baby.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by the onset of a depressive illness during winter. It is thought to be related to there being less natural sunlight. SAD tends to lift during spring and summer.