Depression, As Seen On T.V.

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I used to watch the original Beverly Hills, 90210 with Kelly, Brenda, Donna, Dylan...please tell me you remember this show. It was the hit television series in the nineties that reflected every teen's fantasy (growing up rich) and angst (breaking hearts). So of course I now watch the new, revamped show where Kelly plays mom to her teenage sister, Silver, who happens to be bipolar. Last week's soap-opera-style episode involved Silver making a porno, breaking into her teacher's apartment, and attempting suicide after her boyfriend broke up with her (just to name a few). The intensity of the drama left me wondering -- is that really what bipolar disorder is like?

 

Hollywood has a tendency to exaggerate, but depression is a word many women are familiar with. According to the National Institute of Mental Health nearly twice as many women (12%) as men (7%) are affected by a depressive disorder each year. Women with postpartum depression have a 50% chance of getting it after subsequent pregnancies and may be at an increased risk for future depression not associated with pregnancy.

When it comes to bipolar disorder, men and women are equally at risk, but according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, approximately three times as many women as men experience rapid cycling -- extreme ups, downs, and sideways emotions. The official symptoms of bipolar disorder, also commonly referred to as manic depression, are listed on the NIMH website:

  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Excessively "high," overly good, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • Distractibility, can't concentrate well
  • Little sleep needed
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers
  • Poor judgment
  • Spending sprees
  • A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for one week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.

Of course not everyone will experience depression as depicted on television, but it's important to know the state of your mental health, especially if you plan on having children. Medication used to treat the disorder can interfere with pregnancy and breastfeeding, not to mention discontinuing their use can cause more mental stress.

Do you know anyone suffering from bipolar disorder? Depression? How do you handle it?

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