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One type of depression is bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness. Not nearly as prevalent as other
forms of depressive disorders, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. When in the
depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle,
the individual may be overactive, over talkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania often affects thinking,
judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, the individual
in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic
sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state.

A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and
sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same
as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People
with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can
last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression
or bipolar disorder.


This is an edited version of the revised What is a Depressive Disorder, publication number 02-3561, a National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) brochure first printed in 2000. All material in this document is in the public domain and
may be reproduced or copied without permission from the NIMH.

Symptoms of Depression and Mania

Evaluation and Treatment

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This content was last modified on: 07/06/2012

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