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