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Is It Really Depression?

Symptoms of depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder have similarities -- but require different treatments.
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Antidepressant Not Always Best continued...

Under those circumstances, an antidepressant is often prescribed - yet that may or may not be the right choice. "Antidepressants are used to treat both anxiety disorders and depression. However, someone with bipolar disorder needs a different set of drugs -- a mood stabilizer and antimanic medication," Fagiolini tells WebMD. There are several types of mood-stabilizing drugs, which include medications like lithium and anticonvulsive drugs such as Depakote or Lamictal.

The danger: "Giving an antidepressant to someone with bipolar disorder could trigger a manic episode," he explains. "Manic episodes can be dangerous, because you have very poor judgment, tend to use more drugs, drive recklessly, spend a lot of money, have much more sex - and have it completely unprotected. There's a higher risk of high-risk behaviors because there is poor judgment."

Treating a Mood Disorder Takes Time

What's most important, psychiatrists say, is to recognize that something is wrong. Then see a doctor regularly.

"It's a good sign if your doctor wants to see you more than once before prescribing something," says Goodstein. "It's better if your doctor wants to see you regularly, rather than prescribe the medication and say, 'check back with me in six months.'"

Because bipolar disorder is condition that is ongoing but not always evident, the National Institute of Mental Health recommends long-term preventive treatment. The institute notes that a combination of medication and psychotherapy works best to keep the disorder under control over time.

With most people, "things are more complicated than they seem on the first visit," Goodstein tells WebMD. "Almost always, there's something more going on, and a doctor just can't know all that in one visit. It's erroneous if they think they can."

It's important to get treated for any mood disorder, because it can affect your own quality of life -- as well as the people around you, Goodstein adds. When you're depressed -- for any reason -- "You don't care about yourself. You don't care about those around you. And often, you don't have the motivation to get help because you feel hopeless," he says. "You might think there's no way to solve your problems. But that's not true. We can treat your depression, so you'll be better able to find solutions to your problems."

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Reviewed on January 22, 2010
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