Clinical depression goes by many names — depression, “the blues,” biological depression, major depression. But it all refers to the same thing: feeling sad and depressed for weeks or months on end (not just a passing blue mood). This feeling is most often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy (or feeling “weighed down”), and taking little or no pleasure in things that gave you joy in the past. A person who’s depressed just “can’t get moving” and feels completely unmotivated to do just about anything. Even simple things — like getting dressed in the morning or eating — become large obstacles in daily life.

Depression is readily treated nowadays with modern antidepressant medications and short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy.

Bipolar Disorder, also known by its older name “manic depression,” is a mental disorder that is characterized by serious mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder experiences alternating “highs” (what clinicians refer to as “mania” and “lows” (also known as depression). Both the so-called “bi-polar” periods can be brief, from just a few hours to a few days, or longer, lasting up to several weeks or even months. The periods of mania and depression vary from person to person — many people may only experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even be aware that they have bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Symptoms of Mania (Bipolar Disorder):

  • Abnormal or excessive elation
  • Unusual irritability
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Grandiose notions
  • Increased talking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Poor judgment
  • Inappropriate social behavior.