Offering Hope to the Emotionally
Norbert R. Myslinski
Based on advances in our understanding of the brain and its
response to stress, promising new therapies for depressive
disorders are on the horizon.
Life is an adventure, with many ups and downs. At times, we accomplish our objectives and gain
various benefits and comforts; at other times, we stumble and fall, or the course of events puts us in
difficult situations. Accordingly, our mood oscillates between joy and sorrow, elation and dejection.
Many people, however, find themselves stuck in a prolonged state of depression. Unable to shake off
their gloomy feelings, they lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, and they no longer function
normally. Moreover, their physical health declines, and their relationships with family and friends are
adversely affected. They are suffering from clinical depression--a serious mood disorder, not a passing
phase of feeling "blue."
Clinical depression can occur in several forms. The three main types are known as major depression
(or unipolar depression), dysthymia, and bipolar disorder (or manic depression). Taken together, they
appear to be the most common group of mental health problems in the world, affecting people of every race,
culture, and ethnicity. While a small percentage of children are affected, the elderly are much more
It has been estimated that more than 20 million people in the United States suffer from depressive
mood disorders. The cost in terms of lost productivity and medical care runs into tens of billions of dollars
Symptoms and causes
Major depression is a disabling condition that severely hampers the patient's abilities of working,
eating, sleeping, and relating to others. Each episode lasts two or more weeks, and most patients go through
cycles of remissions and relapses.
Symptoms of major depression include feelings of sadness, despair, and anxiety, as well as problems of
fatigue, forgetfulness, and loss of concentration. The affected person may gain or lose a significant amount
of weight, sleep too much or too little, and lose his ability to experience pleasure. This type of depression is
also associated with suicides and increased risk of death. Different patients suffer from different
combinations of these symptoms, and the level of severity varies from patient to patient and one episode to
Dysthymia is a milder form of depression that does not disable the affected individual, but the
symptoms are chronic and persist for two or more years. A patient with dysthymia may occasionally suffer
from episodes of major depression as well.