Unipolar disorder is also known as major depression, clinical depression, major depressive illness, or major affective disorder. It can occur multiple times or only once in a lifetime. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in over 50% of people who suffer from major depression, the illness will return within two years. However, 40% of individuals who suffer from major depression have only one episode, usually lasting for more than several weeks.
Unipolar disorder affects 15 million Americans and is more common in women than in men. All ages of people can experience this major depressive illness. It has been found to exist in children as young as five-years-old and in the elderly. Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a normal part of aging.
The following symptoms are usually present in unipolar disorder: depressed mood, sadness, poor concentration, sleep disturbances, fatigue, appetite disturbances, excessive guilt, and suicidal thoughts.
Unipolar depression should not be confused with the normal emotion of sadness (depression) which might occur because of a death, or a major loss, failure, or disappointment in life. Unipolar disorder is a biological brain illness, which is persistent and recurring over a lifetime, but if left untreated, it can lead to suicide. Suicide is the eleventh-leading cause of death in the U.S.
The first episode of unipolar depression may not be obvious when it is brief or mild. However, if not treated, it may come back with greater sadness and irritability, lack of interest in normal activities, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, or withdrawal, lasting for weeks or months. When these symptoms exist for an extended period, the depressed individual becomes so hopeless and discouraged that death seems preferable to life and that is why diagnosis and treatment of this illness is so important.
The hopeful news is that unipolar disorder is entirely treatable with medication and therapy. If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of unipolar disorder, do not hesitate to seek medical advice immediately.
Tomorrow I will write about the subject of my book, bipolar disorder.
Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”