Mental disorders are defined as “any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma”. Many mental disorders can progress into other disorders. The progression of depression, into bipolar disorder, into schizophrenia is what this paper is going to deal with. There is no known cure for any of these disorders, just ways to cope. Clinical depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is among one of the leading mental disorders.
Like many disorders it is not fully understood. Depression can arise in any age group, from kids to teens, young adults, middle age adults, and even elderly people. There is also something called situational depression, but this paper will not touch on that. “The exact cause of depression is not known. Many researchers believe it is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, which may be hereditary or caused by events in a person’s life” (A. D. A. M. ). Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, or pessimistic.
They can also include irregular sleeping and eating habits. These are only a brief over view of the beginning of depression. The list of symptoms goes on. Depression is a serious illness and has effects on the patient and their loved ones. Depression can be treated in several different ways, normally with a combination of medications and counseling. It is found to be more beneficial combining the two treatments. “Some studies have shown that antidepressant drug therapy combined with psychotherapy has better results than either therapy alone” (A. D. A. M. ).
From my experience, a combination of medication, combined with individual therapy as well as group therapy, works very well. Therapy, at least from what I understand, is the first thing they try with patients of depression, to understand if it is just the subject being depressed or an actual case of clinical depression. From there the doctor makes the most logical decision of whether to put the individual on medication. Medication for mental disorders is not an exact science like pain medications. It is a trial and error process. Several medications can be tried before the right one is found.
When it is found, the proper dosage must then be found in a similar fashion. For patients struggling with depression it is not as easy as just taking some pills and having it be done. That is where therapy comes in. Talking over personal issues and getting advice for everyday life has proven to be greatly beneficial. Depression is a scary and ominous disorder. When life is only seen from a pessimistic outlook, all purpose seems lost. The fear of not knowing why life seems so bleak before becoming diagnosed is almost as bad as the knowledge of being diagnosed and understanding, at least partially what the disorder is.
Even with all the medications out there and numerous psychologists, mental disorders can still progress and open the door for new and even more horrifying disorders. This, I believe, is what scared me the most. Bipolar disorder, “once known as manic-depressive illness, is a mood disorder” (HHL, 4). It, like most mood and mental disorders, has not been linked to any one happening which causes the disorder to take effect. Bipolar can be looked at as a coin, most of the times. On one side there is mania, the happy and energetic portion, and on the other side there is depression, being sad and sloth like.
The special thing about this coin is that both sides can show at once. “The depressive and manic aspects of bipolar disorder sometimes overlap so people are tense, restless, and despondent at the same time. This combination goes by several names: mixed state, mixed affective state, dysphoric mania” (HHL). Doctor Steve Bressert in his article The Causes of Bipolar Disorder mentions a few ways this disorder is passed along. He mentions genetic, environmental factors, as well as neurochemical factors and Medication-triggered Mania.
He also states that “it may lie dormant and be activated spontaneously or it may be triggered by stressors in life” (Bressert). This is one way that (MDD) can lead into depression. Stresses that arise in one’s life that come from the burden of being diagnosed with depression can push someone into a manic-depressive state. Also “medications such as antidepressants can trigger a manic episode in people who are susceptible to bipolar disorder” (Bressert). It is also as likely that someone, diagnosed with depression, can be prescribed antidepressants that, instead of aid the person, worsen the disorder.
Patients with a family history of mood disorders are watched more carefully with what medication they are given. When I was diagnosed with depression it was a huge thing to me. It helped me understand more of what was going on with me, but it also made me very nervous. I was never told what made my depression escalate into bipolar, but that’s because I am not so sure they knew. It is as likely that my reaction to my depression, or other events that occurred around that moment pushed me into bipolar. Unlike depression, bipolar, in order to keep it in check, needs medication, at all stages.
Therapy does help with most symptoms, but the rapid mood changes have to be managed with medications. My doctors knew I had a family history of bipolar, but even with that information they still did not know what depression medications would trigger bipolar and which would not. Every mind reacts different slightly to the same medication. So it is also equally likely that the medications caused the progression. No matter how this situation came to be, I am still stuck with it and I have to know how to cope. Even while coping things come up that are not easy to deal with.
The inability to fully control ones mood swings is one of the most aggravating and upsetting things about the disorder. The fear that I am not fully in control is quit unnerving at times, but I manage. No matter how much you know about a disorder it never prepares you for the real thing. A good majority of the times there is no set trigger, it is just a happening. Reading that in a text book is just the premise of it, living the rapid change brings a whole new meaning to the texts. Learning to manage that and how to react when it does happen is tough. Each person has their own way of dealing with the event.
Like depression, medications with therapy have a high success rate in easing most of the symptoms. There is no known cure for bipolar. There are only ways to help with the symptoms. While depression and bipolar are can be classified as mental and mood disorders, schizophrenia “is a chronic, severe, disabling brain disorder that interferes with the way a person interprets reality. People with schizophrenia sometimes hear voices or see things that others do not, become paranoid that people are plotting against them, and experience cognitive deficits and social withdrawal” (Riley).
Schizophrenia, like the other diseases mentioned, have no known cause. Risk factors range from “fetal viral infection and/or difficult birth or obstetrical trauma may trigger schizophrenia in people, abnormal brain structure, maternal depression, loss of a parent during childhood, in the northern hemisphere: being born during winter months; being born in the city” (Riley) and list goes on. For years it was believed that bipolar disorder could not lead into schizophrenia, that it could only agitate a predisposed condition. The two disorders are quite different in classification. For more than a century the psychiatric community has debated whether schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were two distinct disorders or were more connected”. “Recent genetic studies suggest a common genetic cause for the two conditions” (Boyles, 2009). “They found that the genes responsible for producing the protective coating around nerves in the brains of the people with the mental illnesses were less active than normal. This protective coating around nerves — called myelin — insulates the nerves and aids the transmission of signals from the brain to the rest of the body.
Several previous studies have shown abnormalities in genes responsible for myelin production in the brains of people with schizophrenia, but this research is the first to identify similar abnormalities in the brains of people with bipolar disorder” (Boyles, 2004). The disorders have been found to be linked to the same gene, the question remain, are they the same. As of now the two disorders are still separate. When I first brought to my psychiatrist attention of hearing voice and seeing things that were not there, he simply stated that bipolar can, at times, have symptoms like that.
With this news he changed my medications around. When the images and other hallucinations continued he feared that the disorder had begun to take another path. He increased my medications once more and let them take full effect for a while and then did a follow up. The disorder, as he feared, had progressed into schizophrenia. There are times where bipolar can have hallucination as symptoms. This normally means, to the doctor, the right combination or dosage in medications have not been found.
When my symptoms began to reoccur, even after the medication had been adjusted, he knew it had progressed. He had to take the proper action by adding new medications, under the classification of antipsychotics. After he had brought up the possibility of me being schizophrenic I was not too sure how to react. Being diagnosed with depression was big, but after living with that and being diagnosed bipolar, this was completely surprising. I had no idea depression could lead all the way into this. This was probably one of the worst moments of my life.
I had never thought that things could end up this way. Although, understanding all of these disorders makes me feel better, knowing I have them is very frightening. I do not always know what is going on in my head. I often doubt what is going on around me. I double even triple check if things are actually there. The fear and the paranoia brought on by either knowing I have the disorder, or the disorder itself, makes life tough sometimes. No matter how bad things can get, I have people I can turn to. Knowledge helps in the fight against the disorders, but people are what really count.