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Depression & Bipolar

Due to the nature of counseling and safety of our staff and students during these COVID-19 times, we will be offering our same quality services virtually until the university has entered Phase Green under the Covid-19 Response Plan.  For more information and to check current phase, please visit the Covid-19 Response Page.

 Depression is a common but serious mood disorder.  While it’s normal to feel sad or experience depressed mood in response to a life struggle or loss, if these feelings persist for more than two weeks, you may be experiencing depression.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression may be cognitive, emotional, and/or physical.  They may include:

  • Persistent sad or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or hopeless
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression: Did You Know?
  • Risk factors for depression can include personal or family history of mood disorders, major life changes, traumas or stressors, and certain physical illnesses or medications
  • Nearly 40% of college students report their functioning has been impacted by depression within the last year
  • Not everyone who is depressed has the same symptoms, and there is no “one size fits all” treatment.  However, a combination of approaches, even the most severe cases are treatable.
What is Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar experience high and low moods—known as mania and depression—which differ from the typical ups-and-downs most people experience. 

Symptoms of Bipolar

To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a person must have experienced distinct episodes of depression (see symptoms above) and mania/hypomania.  Mania symptoms include:

  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
  • Increased activity, energy or agitation
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments
Bipolar: Did you know?
  • The average age of onset is about 25 years old and affects about 2.8% of the U.S. population. Although rare nationally, it can emerge during the college years.
  • The exact cause of bipolar is unknown but several factors may be involved, including genetics (Bipolar disorder is more common among those who have a first-degree relative with the condition), periods of high stress, or drug or alcohol use.
  • Proper treatment helps most people living with bipolar disorder control their mood swings and other symptoms. Because bipolar disorder is a chronic illness, treatment must be ongoing. If left untreated, the symptoms of bipolar disorder get worse, so diagnosing it and beginning treatment early is important.
  • Treating bipolar disorder may include medication, psychotherapy, education, self-management strategies and external supports such as family, friends and support groups. There is no one approach to treating bipolar disorder.
Tips for Managing Mood Disorders
  • Set realistic goals for yourself. Make specific plans to do things that bring you joy and/or give you a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Try not to isolate yourself. Spend time with others and confide in people that you trust.  More people can relate to how you’re feeling than you might think; you’re not a burden.
  • Recognize that change takes times, and that your mood will likely improve gradually, rather than immediately. Understand that some “ups and downs” are normal.
  • Take care of your body: limit caffeine and alcohol. Get plenty of sleep.  Eat well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly – it really can help!
  • Most of the time, people in manic states are unaware of the negative consequences of their actions. With bipolar disorder, suicide is an ever-present danger because some people become suicidal even in manic states. Learning from prior episodes what kinds of behavior signals “red flags” of manic behavior can help manage the symptoms of the illness.
Campus and CAPS Resources

Some resources adapted from Appalachian State University Counseling Center