They include two - bipolar disorders and depressive disorders. At any given time, 4 people out of 100 are suffering from a relatievly severe depressive syndrome. As their name indicates, the affective disorders are characterized primarily by a disturbance in affect or mood. In phsychiatry the word affect refers to the emotional coloring and responsivity with which people view the world.

The existence of affective disorders has been recognized from thousands of years and they have been well discribed in both medicine and literature. Medical texts from Pharaonic Egypt indicate that the depressive syndrome was recognized at least 3,000 years ago. Melancholia and mania were thoroughly described by Hippocratic medical texts in classical times.

Most depressions respond well to medication, and the few that do not respond usually remit after electroconvulsive therapy. On the other hand, depressions tend to recur. The patient is typically well for many months or many years, but approximately 30 - 50 percent of patiens who have had a depression at one time are likely to have another at some later time in their lives.

It is not completely known how depressions are triggered. Sometimes they have obvious precipitants ("reactive" depression). Other depressions appear to come out of the blue, without any obvious outside stress ("endogenous" depression).

Depression is marked by a characteristic set of symptoms:

Alteration in mood or affect
Dysphoric mood (blue, full of despair and hopelessness)

Vegetative symptoms
Insomnia or a need to sleep excessively, chronical feeling of tireness, decreased appetite, loss of weight, difficulty in concentration, mood fluctuation during the day, decrease in sex drive, constipation, dry mouth.

Emotional symptoms
Loss of interst in activities, social withdrawal, loss of confidence, energy decrease, feeling of guilt, psychomotor retardation.

Phsychotic symptoms
Severely depressed people may experience phsychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations. But they are not losing their minds.

Headache or dizziness
Occasionally patients experience "masked" depression. Symptoms such as a headache or dizziness.

Cited sources:
1. The broken brain, Nancy C. Andersen,M.D., Ph.D., Harper & Row, Publishers, New York 1984

jump up Home E-mail me