NICOLE has had bouts of dark moods since she was 14 years old. At age 16, however, she began to experience something new—a curious state of euphoria and unusually high energy. Racing thoughts, fragmented speech, and a lack of sleep were accompanied by an unfounded suspicion that her friends were taking advantage of her. Next, Nicole claimed that she could change the color of objects at will. At this point Nicole’s mother realized that medical help was needed, so she took Nicole to the hospital. After closely monitoring Nicole’s shifting moods, doctors finally reached a diagnosis: Nicole was suffering from bipolar disorder. *
Like Nicole, millions of people worldwide are afflicted with a mood disorder—either bipolar disorder or some form of clinical depression. The effects of these ailments can be devastating. “For many years I was in pain,” says a bipolar patient named Steven. “I experienced terrible lows and then euphoric highs. Therapy and medication helped, but it was still a struggle.”
What causes mood disorders? What is it like to be afflicted with depression or bipolar disorder? How can sufferers—and their caregivers—be provided with the support that they need?
^ par. 2 Also called manic-depressive disorder. Please note that some of these symptoms could indicate schizophrenia, drug abuse, or even normal adolescent adjustment. A diagnosis should be reached only after a thorough examination by a qualified professional.