The highs, lows of mental health

Jessica Debnam | 5/27/2013, 4:32 p.m.
Mood disorders affect about 20 percent of the United States population in any given month, according to Mental Health America. ...
Myths about Depression Mental Health America

Mood disorders affect about 20 percent of the United States population in any given month, according to Mental Health America. Approximately 12 percent of the U.S. report experiencing symptoms two or more times a year. There are four mood disorders – depression, bipolar, seasonal affective disorder and mania. The most common of these is depression. The most misdiagnosed or undiagnosed is bipolar.


More than 19 million people live with clinical depression every day. Depression is a common illness that affects many people, but is sometimes easy to confuse with occasional sadness. Clinical depression is a condition that involves feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. It is typically defined as a disorder that is marked by long-term periods of sadness, a lack of energy, and disinterest in life.

The MHA lists symptoms of clinical depression that include: persistent sadness, sleeping excessively or too little, lack of appetite, loss of energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, irritability, and thoughts of suicide for extended periods of time.

Although the cause of clinical depression has been linked to a biological imbalance in the brain, it can be triggered by traumatic life events. These life events can range from loss of a loved one to personal failings to lack of a social support system. The cause has also been associated with a number of other illnesses – usually chronic or debilitating conditions. Racism and negative stereotypes can also be a factor.

There is no age, race or gender that is immune to clinical depression. Also, it is twice as likely to affect women than men.

In a survey conducted by the MHA in 1996, of the 34 million people that identified themselves as African American, 63 percent of those polled believed that depression was a personal weakness. This is significantly higher than the overall survey average of 56 percent respondents of all races.

The MHA survey continues, stating that less than 33 percent of African Americans polled felt depression should be defined as a health problem. And the statistics reflect those findings regarding treatment.

Clinical depression is very much an illness, but also vey treatable. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy are among the most common treatments and more than 80 percent show improvement with treatment, states the MHA.

A licensed physician can provide tips on a day-to-day level to help with the effects of depression as well, including a healthy exercise schedule, balanced diet, and positive association.


Bipolar disorder, once referred to as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, is both common and difficult to diagnose. It is a disorder based on a person’s mood quickly transitioning between high to very-high feelings known as mania and low to very-low feelings known as depression. Like many ailments today, there are several ways individuals can live both satisfying and rewarding lives with this disorder, but knowledge and treatment are key.

Out of 317 million Americans, 2.3 million suffer from bipolar disorder. Regarding this illness, the MHA details that African Americans are not immune to this disorder, but there is no evidence that African Americans are more susceptible. However, it is noted that African Americans are more likely to go without treatment – sometimes due to pride, a shortage of health insurance, and/or past misdiagnoses.