Feeling Blue Or Is It Something More?

Many people experience bouts of sadness, feeling blue, or depression in their lifetime. The symptoms of sadness are manageable and usually resolve on their own. People who have a Depressive Disorder (major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder), however, will feel sad most days for at least two weeks and lasting up to two years. The symptoms get in the way of living life and do not usually resolve without intervention. Depressive Disorders are common but serious illnesses, but with appropriate treatment, most people can be helped.

So how do you know if you are experiencing a passing period of sadness or something that is diagnosable?  There are several other symptoms of depression such as:

  • Loss of pleasure in activities that used to be pleasurable
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Changes in appetite causing weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of energy
  • Poor concentration or indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Approximately 7% of the U.S. population experience major depressive disorder annually and .5-1.5% experience the more chronic persistent depressive disorder.  Unfortunately, far too many people go undiagnosed and untreated.  And yet, early diagnosis and treatment are linked to more positive outcomes and recovery from any mental health disorder – including depression. When depression goes untreated it can have a negative impact on your life, relationships and work.  In addition, it can make recovery more difficult.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is similar to depression because it includes a major depressive episode. But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences sometimes-dramatic shifts in mood where they appear to be on a high or elated and at times agitated (mania or hypomania). Again, there are life situations that can cause mood changes such as getting a promotion, graduating or winning the lottery.  The elation that a person experiences with these life situations is short lived and manageable.  However, the shifts in mood associated with bipolar disorder usually cause disruptions in life and require intervention. In addition, there are many other symptoms of bipolar disorder, including.

Symptoms of Mania

  • Increased goal directed activity
  •  Engagement in activities that could have severe consequences
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Inflated self esteem
  • Racing speech or thoughts
  • Distracted or inability to focus

An individual who has bipolar disorder will also experience the symptoms of depression. Approximately 1.4% of the population is diagnosed with a bipolar disorder (bipolar I or bipolar II) annually in United States.  As with the depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is treatable and you should seek the help of a professional if you think you have bipolar disorder.  Untreated bipolar disorder can result in serious problems that affect every area of your life. These may include problems related to drug and alcohol use, suicide or suicide attempts.

Help for Bipolar Disorder

A mental health professional will conduct an assessment to determine the correct diagnosis and help you develop an individualized treatment plan.  In most cases, bipolar disorder can be treated with medication and psychotherapy. Due to the nature of this disorder, it is usually advisable to have your family involved so they can learn how to best support you.

What if I am thinking of suicide?

90% of all individuals who die by suicide have a mental health or substance use disorder.  If you have thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately by talking to someone or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).  For information on suicide prevention, visit our Texas Suicide Prevention website at texassuicideprevention.org.

Help is Available

If you think you have a depressive disorder you should seek out the help of a professional who can do an assessment to determine the correct diagnosis and help you develop an individualized treatment plan.  In most cases, this will include psychotherapy (talk therapy) and possibly medications. There are also life style changes that can improve mood as well. The combination of medication, psychotherapy and life style changes have been found to be the most effective treatment for depression. 

Download: Do You Have a Depressive Disorder?