Bipolar II Disorder: Prolong Lows, Mild Mania
Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones recently sought treatment for bipolar II disorder, a condition characterized by prolonged "low" periods, her rep confirmed Wednesday. Zeta-Jones, who checked into a mental health facility in Connecticut, has supported her husband Michael Douglas through his battle with throat cancer over the past year—and experts say such stress can trigger the condition. Bipolar disorder, which affects 2 to 3 percent of the United States population, is defined by cycles of severe depression and manic episodes. People with bipolar II, meanwhile, swing from major depression to milder, briefer manic states, without experiencing full-blown manic episodes. Treatment typically involves medication and psychotherapy, which can dampen mood swings and related symptoms and can reduce episode severity and frequency. "One of the things people often overlook because manias and hypomanias are splashy, is that most patients with bipolar disorder spend their lives depressed," Martin Evers, an outpatient psychiatrist and associate director of behavioral health at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, told Time. "The tragedy of the disorder is the depression. A lot of days of your life are lost."
Feeling Depressed or Anxious? Screen Yourself Online
You've been feeling particularly anxious, depressed, or irritable lately. How do you know if it's time to seek help? While not a substitute for diagnosis by a medical professional, a number of online questionnaires, including one discussed in a study last year in the Annals of Family Medicine, can help you determine whether your symptoms are something to be concerned about. Bradley Gaynes, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, notes that a positive result doesn't mean you have a psychiatric illness. But it does mean you're "having some distressing psychiatric symptoms" and might benefit from expert attention.
"If you turn out to have a high score on any of these things, go see a psychiatrist and get a proper diagnosis," advises Ivan Goldberg, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City since the 1960s who has developed several screening tools that are widely posted on mental-health websites. Goldberg's tools and the questionnaire, called My Mood Monitor, are just a few of the mental-health screening tools available on the Internet; Google "mental health questionnaire," and you'll see more than 3 million results testing for everything from depression to ADHD and anxiety disorders. (Note: Any thoughts of suicide warrant prompt professional attention.) Here is a look at My Mood Monitor and two of Goldberg's screening tools:
1. My Mood Monitor, also known as the M-3 Checklist. This online questionnaire "indicates whether someone may be at increased risk" for four conditions: depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, says Gaynes, lead author of the new study evaluating how well My Mood Monitor recognizes true illness. The tool was developed by clinicians from Georgetown University, Columbia University, and the Bipolar Collaborative Network. [Read more: Feeling Depressed or Anxious? Screen Yourself Online.]
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Optimism Protects Teens From Depression, Health Risks
Parents are always telling kids they need to be optimistic, but there hasn't been much evidence that optimism really does them any good. Looking on the bright side may even hurt teenagers, say some experts, because it can make them downplay the risks posed by, for example, smoking and drug abuse. That's in stark contrast to older adults, who are generally healthier and happier the more optimistic they are.
But researchers in Australia say that optimism may help protect teenagers against depression. That news, reported in the journal Pediatrics, could matter to many teens, since 10 to 15 percent of adolescents have symptoms of depression at any given time. Depression is a huge risk factor for suicide and increases the risk of substance abuse, trouble in school and relationships, and physical illness.
The researchers followed 5,634 Australian 12- and 13-year-olds for 18 months, asking them about their psychological state, substance abuse, and antisocial behavior. The more optimistic the students were, the less likely they were to become depressed. But there was just a modest effect on other common teen problems. For instance, optimistic teenagers were also less likely--but only slightly less--to be involved in criminal activity or heavy substance abuse. [Read more: Optimism Protects Teens From Depression, Health Risks.]
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