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Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods. But true clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for an extended time.

Depression is generally ranked in terms of severity -- mild, moderate, or severe. The degree of your depression influences how you are treated.

Symptoms of depression include:

    Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
    A dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
    Fatigue and lack of energy
    Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
    Extreme difficulty concentrating
    Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
    Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities
    Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

    Recurring thoughts of death or suicide


Other names for anxiety: Feeling uptight, Stress, Tension, Jitters, Apprehension.

Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or anxious. What is stressful to one person is not necessarily stressful to another.

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear. The source of this uneasiness is not always known or recognized, which can add to the distress you feel.

Stress is a normal part of life. In small quantities, stress is good -- it can motivate you and help you be more productive. However, too much stress, or a strong response to stress, is harmful. It can set you up for general poor health as well as specific physical or psychological illnesses like infection, heart disease, or depression. Persistent and unrelenting stress often leads to anxiety and unhealthy behaviors like overeating and abuse of alcohol or drugs.


Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of excitability (mania) alternating with periods of depression. The "mood swings" between mania and depression can be very abrupt.

Bipolar disorder results from disturbances in the areas of the brain that regulate mood. During manic periods, a person with bipolar disorder may be overly impulsive and energetic, with an exaggerated sense of self. The depressed phase brings overwhelming feelings of anxiety, low self-worth, and suicidal thoughts.

There are two primary types of bipolar disorder. People with Bipolar Disorder I have had at least one fully manic episode with periods of major depression. (In the past, bipolar disorder I was called manic depression.)

People with Bipolar Disorder II seldom experience full-fledged mania. Instead they experience periods of hypomania (elevated levels of energy and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as the symptoms of mania). These hypomanic periods alternate with episodes of major depression.

Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally and usually appears between the ages of 15 and 25. The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder.

A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm. It is an event that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one's safety or to the stability of one's world.

A traumatic event may involve:

    Physical injury or illness.
    Separation from parents (perceived abandonment).
    Death of a friend, family member, or pet.
    A move to a new location.
    Loss of trust.
    Violence or war.
    Terrorism or mass disaster

At the time of a traumatic event, the person experiencing the event might feel numb and, therefore, not know how to respond. Later on, memories of the trauma can bring out feelings of helplessness, fear, even horror -- like you are reliving the trauma all over again. To try to resolve such feelings and move forward after a trauma, it is helpful to discuss the events and feelings, especially with a child.

After a traumatic event, the person experiencing it needs time, support, and a sense of safety to re-establish trust. Experiences that have traumatized a person will usually cause anxiety. In children, signs of anxiety might include an increased need for physical and emotional closeness, fear of separation, difficulties sleeping, loss of appetite, bed wetting, or changes in interactions with others.

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