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Mental illnesses affect women and men differently. Scientists are only now beginning to see that there is a difference in the various biological and psychosocial factors to mental health and mental illness in both women and men. Research now shows that before adolescence and late in life, women and men experience depression at about the same frequency. Because the gender difference in depression is not seen until after puberty and decreases dramatically after menopause, scientists have realized that hormonal factors are involved in women's greater vulnerability to have a mental illness. Although "Eating Disorders" are considered by many to be a mental disorder, we have listed it on a seperate page. Counseling, support groups such as this website, and medicines can help with MANY of the issues listed here. Below are questions and answers to some of the most common mental illnesses.

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Q. What is "Bipolar Disorder"? A. Until recently, bipolar disorder was known as manic depression. The word bipolar is now used to indicate the 2 poles, or extremes, that characterize the disorder. Bipolar disorder can affect a person's ability to experience a normal range of mood.

As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorder includes 4 main mood episodes—Mania, Hypomania, Depression, and Mixed Mood.

Q. Are there different types of bipolar disorder?

A. Yes, According to the American Psychiatric Association the different types are:

Bipolar I Disorder
One or more manic episodes or mixed episodes and often 1 or more major depressive episodes. Depressive episode may last for several weeks or months, alternating with intense symptoms of mania that may last just as long. Between episodes, there may be periods of normal functioning. Symptoms may also be related to seasonal changes.

Bipolar II Disorder
One or more major depressive episodes accompanied by at least
1 hypomanic episode. Hypomanic episodes have symptoms similar to manic episodes but are less severe. Between episodes, there may be periods of normal functioning. Symptoms may also be related to seasonal changes.

Cyclothymic Disorder
Chronic fluctuating mood disturbance involving periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms. It is a milder form of bipolar disorder; the periods of both depressive and hypomanic symptoms are shorter, less severe, and do not occur with regularity. Many, but not all, people with cyclothymic disorder may ultimately develop a more severe form of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
When the bipolar disorder is not characterized by any of the above mentioned types of bipolar disorder. The experiences of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. Occasionally someone will experience the symptoms of a manic episode and a major depressive episode, but not fit into the above mentioned types of bipolar disorder. This is known as Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Just like the other types of bipolar disorder, Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified is a treatable disorder.

Q. What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

A. There are different moods for bipolar disorder and each one has its own symptoms. Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:

  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Excessively "high," overly good, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • Distractibility, can't concentrate well
  • Little sleep needed
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers
  • Poor judgment
  • Spending sprees
  • A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.

Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Sleeping too much, or can't sleep
  • Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
  • Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

A depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.

A mild to moderate level of mania is called hypomania. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it and may even be associated with good functioning and enhanced productivity. Thus even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder, the person may deny that anything is wrong. Without proper treatment, however, hypomania can become severe mania in some people or can switch into depression.

Sometimes, severe episodes of mania or depression include symptoms of psychosis (or psychotic symptoms). Common psychotic symptoms are hallucinations (hearing, seeing, or otherwise sensing the presence of things not actually there) and delusions (false, strongly held beliefs not influenced by logical reasoning or explained by a person's usual cultural concepts). Psychotic symptoms in bipolar disorder tend to reflect the extreme mood state at the time. For example, delusions of grandiosity, such as believing one is the President or has special powers or wealth, may occur during mania; delusions of guilt or worthlessness, such as believing that one is ruined and penniless or has committed some terrible crime, may appear during depression. People with bipolar disorder who have these symptoms are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as having schizophrenia, another severe mental illness.

It may be helpful to think of the various mood states in bipolar disorder as a spectrum or continuous range. At one end is severe depression, above which is moderate depression and then mild low mood, which many people call "the blues" when it is short-lived but is termed "dysthymia" when it is chronic. Then there is normal or balanced mood, above which comes hypomania (mild to moderate mania), and then severe mania.


In some people, however, symptoms of mania and depression may occur together in what is called a mixed bipolar state. Symptoms of a mixed state often include agitation, trouble sleeping, significant change in appetite, psychosis, and suicidal thinking. A person may have a very sad, hopeless mood while at the same time feeling extremely energized.

Bipolar disorder may appear to be a problem other than mental illness—for instance, alcohol or drug abuse, poor school or work performance, or strained interpersonal relationships. Such problems in fact may be signs of an underlying mood disorder.

Provided by the National Institute of Mental Health

Q. I heard there are mood swings associated with bipolar disorder. Is that true?

A. Yes, very much so. Here are the different types of "Mood Episodes" associated with bipolar disorder:

Manic Episode (Mania) is a distinct period during which there is an abnormally and constantly elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week.

Hypomanic Episode (Hypomania) is a milder form of mania that lasts at least 4 days.

Major Depressive Episode (Depression) is a period during which there is either depressed mood or the loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities, lasting for at least 2 weeks.

Mixed Episode is a period of time during which a person experiences both manic and major depressive symptoms nearly every day for at least 1 week.

Q. How can someone get help for bipolar disorder? A. Anyone with bipolar disorder should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses, can assist in providing the person and family with additional approaches to treatment.

Help can be found at:

  • University—or medical school—affiliated programs
  • Hospital departments of psychiatry
  • Private psychiatric offices and clinics
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Offices of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians
  • Public community mental health centers

People with bipolar disorder may need help to get help.

Q. Where can I find more information on bipolar disorder?

A.  Following is a link to organizations that may be able to provide additional information and/or assistance about Bipolar Disorder:


Q. What is "ADHD"?

A. Attention Deficit Disorder is characterized by the main features of distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It occurs in both children and adults, and interferes with the person's ability to function normally in their day-to-day activities, such as work, school, and at home. While we do not yet fully understand the causes behind these problems, there are many readily available and effective treatments for attention deficit problems.

The diagnosis of ADHD or ADD cannot be done online. It is normal for children to be easily distracted at various stages throughout their development for short periods of time. Most children grow out of such stages naturally on their own.

Q. What are the symptoms of "ADHD"? A. The symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivness. These symptoms appear early in a child's life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a qualified professional.

Symptoms of ADHD will appear over the course of many months, often with the symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity preceding those of inattention, which may not emerge for a year or more. Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for the child's self-control. A child who "can't sit still" or is otherwise disruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child who acts before thinking may be considered just a "discipline problem," while the child who is passive or sluggish may be viewed as merely unmotivated. Yet both may have different types of ADHD. All children are sometimes restless, sometimes act without thinking, sometimes daydream the time away. When the child's hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships with other children, or behavior at home, ADHD may be suspected. But because the symptoms vary so much across settings, ADHD is not easy to diagnose. This is especially true when inattentiveness is the primary symptom.

Q. What is "Alzheimer's disease "?

A. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities. The most common form of dementia among older people is Alzheimer's disease (AD), which involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Although scientists are learning more every day, right now they still do not know what causes AD, and there is no cure, but there are some treatments.

AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles). Today, these plaques and tangles in the brain are considered signs of AD.

Q. What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?

A. AD begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. In this stage, people may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. They may not be able to solve simple math problems.

As the disease goes on, symptoms are more easily noticed and become serious enough to cause people with AD or their family members to seek medical help. They begin to have problems speaking, under-standing, reading, or writing. Later on, people with AD may have problems completing simplw tasks and then become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, patients need total care.

Q. What is an "Anxiety Disorder"? Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation, or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that fill people's lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear that are chronic, unremitting, and can grow progressively worse. Tormented by panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, flashbacks of traumatic events, nightmares, or countless frightening physical symptoms, some people with anxiety disorders even become housebound.

Q. What are the different kinds of "Anxiety Disorders"?


  • Panic Disorder—Repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as rape or other criminal assault, war, child abuse, natural or human-caused disasters, or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable or distracted and being easily startled are common. Family members of victims can also develop this disorder.
  • Phobias—Two major types of phobias are social phobia and specific phobia. People with social phobia have an overwhelming and disabling fear of scrutiny, embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations, which leads to avoidance of many potentially pleasurable and meaningful activities. People with specific phobia experience extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives unnecessarily.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder—Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months. Almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it; accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.

Q. What is "Borderline Personality Disorder"? A. People with borderline personality disorder experience intense emotional instability, particularly in relationships with others. They may make frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by others. They may experience minor problems as major crises. They may also express their anger, frustration, and dismay through suicidal gestures, self-mutilation, and other self-destructive acts. They tend to have an unstable self-image or sense of self.

Q. Are women more susceptible to Borderline Personality Disorders? A. Yes....About 2 percent of all people have borderline personality disorder. About 75 percent of people with this disorder are female.

Q. How do you know when you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)? A. Borderline Personality Disorder is indicated when five (or more) of the following exist:

  • 1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • 2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between 
    extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  • 3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self; or sense of long-term goals; or career choices, types of friends desired or values preferred.
  • 4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging: for example; spending, sex, substance abuse, and binge eating.
  • 5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  • 6. Affective instability: marked shifts from baseline mood to depression, irritability, or anxiety, usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days.
  • 7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • 8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger; frequent displays of temper.
  • 9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

Q. What is "Depression"? A. A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "snap out of it" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.

Q. What are the symptoms of Depression? A.

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms, some many. Severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also varies over time.


  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Q. Do women experience Depression more often than men?

A. Women experience depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women—particularly such factors as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for children and for aging parents.

Studies show that in the case of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS), women with a pre-existing vulnerability to PMS, experienced relief from mood and physical symptoms when their sex hormones were suppressed. Shortly after the hormones were re-introduced, they again developed symptoms of PMS. Women without a history of PMS reported no effects of the hormonal manipulation.

Many women are also particularly vulnerable after the birth of a baby. The hormonal and physical changes, as well as the added responsibility of a new life, can be factors that lead to postpartum depression in some women. While transient "blues" are common in new mothers, a full-blown depressive episode is not a normal occurrence and requires active intervention. Treatment by a sympathetic physician and the family's emotional support for the new mother are prime considerations in aiding her to recover her physical and mental well-being and her ability to care for and enjoy the infant.

Q. Where can I find more information on Depression?

A. click the logo below:

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Q. What is "Schizophrenia"? A. Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease. People with schizophrenia often suffer terrifying symptoms such as hearing internal voices not heard by others, or believing that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These symptoms may leave them fearful and withdrawn. Their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be incomprehensible or frightening to others.

Q. Are women more susceptable to Schizophrenia? A. Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency, the disorder often appears earlier in men, usually in the late teens or early twenties, than in women, who are generally affected in the twenties to early thirties.

Q. Where can I find more information Schizophrenia?

Click the link below:

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Q. What is "Postpartum Depression"? A. Postpartum depression can happen anytime within the first year after childbirth. A woman may have a number of symptoms such as sadness, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, anxiety, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Postpartum depression often affects a woman’s well-being and keeps her from functioning well for a long periods of time. Postpartum depression needs to be treated by a doctor. Counseling, support groups such as this website, and medicines are things that can help.

Q. What are the "Baby Blues"? A. The "baby blues" can happen in the days right after childbirth and will normally go away within a few days to a week. A new mother can have sudden mood swings, sadness, crying spells, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, and feel irritable, restless, anxious, and lonely. Symptoms are not severe and treatment isn’t needed. But there are things you can do to feel better. Nap when the baby does. Ask for help from your spouse, family members, and friends. Join a support group such as this website and talk with other moms.

Q. Where can I find more information on depression during and after pregnancy? A. For More Information . . .

You can find out more about depression during and after pregnancy by contacting the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) at 1-800-994-9662 or the following organizations.

National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
Phone: (301) 496-9576
Internet Address: http://www.nimh.nih.gov

National Mental Health Information Center, SAMHSA, HHS
Phone: (800) 789-2647
Internet Address: http://www.mentalhealth.org

American Psychological Association
Phone: (800) 374-2721
Internet Address: http://www.apa.org

National Mental Health Association
Phone: (800) 969-NMHA
Internet Address: http://www.nmha.org

Postpartum Education for Parents
Phone: (805) 564-3888
Internet Address: http://www.sbpep.org

Postpartum Support International
Phone: (805) 967-7636
Internet Address: http://www.postpartum.net



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