Depression

More FAQ’s on Depression & Mood Disorders

Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is depression?
Q: What is bipolar disorder?
Q: Is there a cure?
Q: What do I do if I think my child might have depression or bipolar disorder?
Q: I think I have depression/bipolar disorder. What should I do?
Q: I think that someone I care about has bipolar disorder/depression. What can I do?
Q: Is it bad to drink alcohol or use recreational drugs if I take medications?
Q: I have terrible side effects from my medication. What can I do?
Q: Is it safe to take my medication if I am pregnant or nursing?
Q: What about natural/herbal treatments?
Q: I have depression/bipolar disorder. Do I tell my employer? How?

Q: What is depression?

A: Clinical depression is a treatable illness marked by changes in mood, thought and behavior. That’s why it’s called a mood disorder.

Everyone, at various times in life, feels sad or blue. It’s normal to feel sad on occasion. Sometimes this sadness comes from things that happen in your life: you move to a different city and leave friends behind, you lose your job or a loved one dies. But what’s the difference between “normal” feelings of sadness and the feelings caused by clinical depression?

How intense the mood is. Depression is more intense than a simple bad mood.
How long the mood lasts: A bad mood is usually gone in a few days, but depression lasts for two weeks or longer.
How much it interferes with your life. A bad mood does not keep you from going to work or school or spending time with friends. Depression can keep you from doing these things and may even make it difficult to get out of bed.
People of all ages, races, ethnic groups, and social classes have depression. Although it can occur at any age, the illness often develops between the ages of 25 and 44. The lifetime prevalence of depression is 24 percent for women; for men, it’s 15 percent
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What is Bipolar Disorder?

A: Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. It is known as bipolar disorder because a person’s mood can alternate between the “poles” of mania (high, elevated mood) and depression (low, depressed mood).

This change in the mood or “mood swing” can last for hours, days, weeks or even months. These “highs” and “lows” are frequently seasonal. Many people who have bipolar disorder report feeling symptoms of depression more often in the winter and symptoms of mania more often in the spring.

Bipolar disorder affects more than two million adult Americans. Like depression and other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder can also adversely affect spouses, family members, friends, and people in the workplace. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during teen years) although it can start in early childhood or as late as the 40s and 50s. An equal number of men and women develop this illness and it is found among all races, ethnic groups and social classes. The illness tends to run in families.
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Q: Is there a Cure?
A: No, there is not yet a cure for depression or bipolar disorder. But researcher is underway to determine the exact cause of these illnesses, to develop better treatments and eventually a cure.
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Q: What do I do if I think my child has depression or bipolar disorder?
A: Depression and bipolar disorder can affect children and adolescents. Talk to your pediatrician if you believe your child is experiencing any symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder. Your pediatrician may be able to help or may recommend you consult with a professional who is experienced in treating these illnesses in children. Depression and bipolar disorder have symptoms similar to other illnesses (like ADHD and anxiety) so be sure your doctor screens your child for all possible conditions.

Though your child may be diagnosed with a mood disorder, it does not mean he or she cannot lead a full, productive life. There are many treatments available today and many in development that can relieve symptoms and allow children to participate in school and other activies.
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Q: I think I have depression/bipolar disorder. What should I do?
A: There are screening tools on this site to detect symptoms of depression and mania. They can help identify whether you may have one of these illnesses. Take the results of the screening to your doctor and consult with him/her about a possible diagnosis.

Mood disorders are illnesses that need treatment like any other illness. Early diagnosis is very important. Most treatment plans include a combination of medication, talk therapy, and support. Avoiding treatment out of embarrassment or shame or because you can believe you can “snap out of it” is a dangerous decision. Mood disorders are not something you can decide you will not have, they must be treated. Get help.
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Q: I have depression/bipolar disorder. Do I tell my employer? How?
A: Different people are comfortable with sharing different amounts of information. Some people feel that it is unnecessary to inform their employers of their diagnosis. For other people, however, their diagnosis and the need for some sort of treatment accommodation have a significant impact on their job and they feel a need to inform their employer.

If you decide to inform your employer, be prepared to do some educating. Many people do not know the facts about these disorders and sharing information should lessen any fear or stigma they might have. Also, be prepared to share with your employer how your diagnosis could affect your work. Sharing your own experiences with a mood disorder might set the example for others to do the same.

You should always carefully assess your work environment before making any disclosure. Weigh your employer’s level of tolerance, confidentiality, and understanding. You may want to discuss the issue with your doctor and family before making a decision.
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Q: Is it bad to drink alcohol or use recreational drugs if I take medications?
A: Yes, doing so can be very harmful. Always talk to your doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist before mixing alcohol or illegal substances with prescription medications. Also, ask your pharmacist for the package insert from your medication to learn about the drug interactions and side effects of your medication. Make sure you know how alcohol or illegal substances are going to interact with your medications. Educating yourself could save your life.
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Q: I have terrible side effects from my medication. What can I do?
A: Many medications have side effects that might include dry mouth, nausea, constipation, sleepiness, weight gain, weight loss or sexual dysfunction (both men and women). Some side effects go away within days or weeks and others can be long-term. Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor before he prescribes a medication.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing There are a few things you can do to help relieve some side effects, including

Changing the time you take your medication.
Taking your medication with or with/out food.
Keep to your daily routine. Eat healthy meals, get regular exercise, get plenty of rest.
Drink plenty of water.
Stay as physically active as you can. Even light exercise such as walking can help minimize physical effects of stress.
Never stop taking your medication or alter your dose without consulting with your doctor.
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Q: Is it safe to take my medication if I am pregnant or nursing?
A: Try to discuss pregnancy ahead of time with your doctor if you are planning it. If you become pregnant, information your doctor immediately. you and your doctor should discuss you health in detail and make medication decisions based on your need for the medication compared tot he risk of medication may pose to your baby’s health. The greatest period of reisk for most medications is during the first three months of pregnancy.

Medications may also be present in breast milk. Talk to your doctor if you nurse or are planning on nursing.
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Q: What about natural/herbal treatments?
A: There are many dietary supplements and other alternative treatments that are advertised to have a positive effect on depression or bipolar disorder. These include St. John’s wort, SAM-E, Omega-3 and others. Because lack of scientific data, Depression Forums does not endorse or discourage the use of these treatments. However be aware that natural is not always the same thing as safe. Different brands of supplements may contain different concentrations of the active substance. Many alternative treatments may have negative affects on other medications you are taking. Before you start taking any over-the-counter medication, talk to your doctor.
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Q: I think that someone I care about has bipolar disorder/depression. What can I do?
A: Before doing anything, educate yourself on the symptoms of these illnesses. Then pick an appropriate time when you can quietly discuss your concerns with this person. Explain why you believe he or she should be screened for depression or bipolar disorder by comparing their behavior with the symptoms. Encourage them to seek help and resist the urge to function as a therapist.

Reassure them that you are having this conversation because you care about them and want to help them feel better. Remind them that they are not alone and that things can get better. Gather information for them to help them make a decision about consulting with a professional skilled at treating depression and bipolar disorder. Most of all, be supportive and caring.

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