Depression, Bipolar, and GAD

Real Relationship Advice

This week we are focusing on Mental Health and societal understanding of Mental Illness. We use the terminology of psychopathology in our common vernacular but do we really understand what we are talking about? We say things like, ‘I’m so depressed,’ or ‘she’s acting bi-polar’ with little to no understanding of what those terms mean. It’s like calling a cramp to appendicitis. Today we will educate and clear up some misconceptions about 2 of the big psychological diagnoses.

Depression: Signs and Symptoms (courtesy of NIMH

People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.

          Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

Depression often co-occurs with substance abuse, anxiety and PTSD. Depression also accompanies chronic medical conditions as well.

Bi-Polar disorder signs and symptoms (courtesy of NIMH



Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:

Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:

Mood Changes

  • A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
  • Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling “jumpy” or “wired.”

Behavioral Changes

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being restless
  • Sleeping little
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable,
    high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.
Mood Changes

  • A long period of feeling worried or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.

Behavioral Changes

  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.

Bi-polar often coexists with substance abuse disorder. Individuals who are diagnosed with bi-polar often show symptoms of PTSD, anxiety disorders and ADHD.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder signs and symptoms (courtesy of NIMH

A person with GAD may:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their constant worries
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Not be able to relax
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable, sweat a lot, and feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot.

People with GAD may go to the doctor complaining of lack of sleep or headaches before being diagnosed. GAD often runs in families but it is unsure whether that is due to genetics or poor stress management role models.

The prevalence of these three diagnoses is quite high and the label is often misused. If you feel that you have a significant amount of symptoms, please seek psychiatric help. We are sure your family doc is great but we firmly believe a psychiatric professional is better equipped to deal with your problem. Always consider seeking talk therapy in conjunction with psychiatric medication since it has been proven time and again to be the most effective form of treatment.

How do you feel about medication? Would you rather take meds or talk it out?

For more information regarding mental illness, please go to the National Institute of Mental Health ( They have the latest information on all things regarding our mental well being.


  • DawnSandomeno

    Tons of great info here – Thank you.  Can a 7 year old experience GAD?

  • CarriBrown

    Thank you for this. I was diagnosed with GAD after years of battling depression and wondering what the hell was wrong with me (answer: nothing). My mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was in 8th grade. People love to throw around “so and so is acting bipolar” without knowing what it even means.

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