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Mood Disorders

Bipolar Disorder (manic depression)

People with manic depression or bipolar affective disorder have periods of depression and periods of feeling unusually “high” or elated. About 1% of the population is affected. The “highs” can get out of hand, and the manic person may behave in a reckless manner, sometimes to the point of financial ruin or getting in trouble with the law.

Excerpts from CMHA National web site – Bipolar Disorder


Depression, or unipolar affective disorder, is a mood disorder which affects about 10% of the population. Everyone experiences “highs” and “lows” in life, but people with mood disorders experience them with greater intensity and for longer periods of time than most people.

Depression becomes an illness, or clinical depression, when the feelings described below are severe, last for several weeks, and begin to interfere with one’s work and social life:

There is no one cause of depression; neither is it fully understood. The following factors may make some people more prone than others to react to a loss or failure with a clinical depression:

There may also be a genetic link since people with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it. If you suspect you have Depression, see your family doctor. Treatment options include medication and/or therapy.

Excerpts from CMHA National web site – Depression

Post-partum Depression

Researchers have identified three types of postpartum depression: baby blues; postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

Baby blues is the most minor form of postpartum depression, usually starting one to three days after delivery. Characterized by weeping, irritability, lack of sleep, mood changes and a feeling of vulnerability, it can last several weeks. It’s estimated that between 50% and 80% of mothers experience them.

Postpartum depression is more debilitating. Women suffer despondency, tearfulness, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, irritability and fatigue. Physical symptoms include headaches, numbness, chest pain and hyperventilation. A woman with postpartum depression may regard her child with ambivalence, negativity or disinterest. Since it’s not fully understood, it tends to be under reported. Estimates of its occurrence range from 3% to 20% of births. The depression can begin at any time between delivery and six months post-birth, and may last up to several months or even a year.

Postpartum psychosis is a relatively rare disorder. The symptoms include extreme confusion, fatigue, agitation, alterations in mood, feelings of hopelessness and shame, hallucinations and rapid speech or mania. Studies indicate that it affects only one in 1000 births.

Causes and risk factors
The exact cause of postpartum depression is not known. One factor may be the changes in hormone levels that occur during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth. Also, when the experience of having a child does not match the mother’s expectations, the resultant stress can trigger depression. Studies have also considered the possible effects of maternal age, birthing practices and the level of social support for the new mother.

Women with a history of depression are at higher risk. An estimated 10% to 35% of women will experience a recurrence of postpartum depression.

How is postpartum depression treated?
Therapy, support networks and medicines such as antidepressants are used to treat postpartum depression.

Coping with postpartum depression
First, remember that you are not alone – up to 20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Equally important is remembering that you are not to blame. Here are some suggestions for coping:

If you think a friend or family member is suffering from postpartum depression, offer your support and reassurance. You may be able to direct them towards useful sources of information about postpartum depression. Easing the isolation they feel is an important step.

Excerpts from CMHA National web site – Post partum depression

Season Affective Disorder (SAD)

Some people are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.

SAD is thought to relate to seasonal variations in light. A “biological internal clock” in the brain regulates our circadian (daily) rhythms. This biological clock responds to changes in season, partly because of the differences in the length of the day. For many thousands of years, the cycle of human life revolved around the daily cycle of light and dark. We were alert when the sun shone; we slept when our world was in darkness. The relatively recent introduction of electricity has relieved us of the need to be active mostly in the daylight hours. But our biological clocks may still be telling our bodies to sleep as the days shorten. This puts us out of step with our daily schedules, which no longer change according to the seasons. Other research shows that neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that help regulate sleep, mood, and appetite, may be disturbed in SAD.

What are the Symptoms?
SAD can be difficult to diagnose. Generally, symptoms that recur for at least 2 consecutive winters and may include:
change in appetite, in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods

Research in Ontario suggests that between 2% and 3% of the general population may have SAD Another 15% have a less severe experience described as the “winter blues.” SAD tends to begin in people over the age of 20 and is more common in women than in men. Recent studies suggest that SAD is more common in northern countries, where the winter day is shorter. Deprivation from natural sources of light is also of particular concern for shift workers and urban dwellers who may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments. People with SAD find that spending time in a southerly location brings them relief from their symptoms.

Excerpts from CMHA National web site – SAD

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