There are few families today that have not been affected by a relative or close associate who suffers or has suffered in the past from depression. During the average life span, more than twenty million Americans will experience or suffer some degree of depression at some point. Moreover, the ratio of families that will be directly affected is one in five (Papolos 3). With statistics such as these, is it any wonder that there are daily commercials on television touting the latest pharmaceutical mood enhancing drug or that book stores devote entire sections to depression and emotional disorders? Moreover, support groups for those suffering from depression and/or are affected by someone who is, can be found in any community, large and small, across the country. Demitri F. Papolos in "Overcoming Depression" states that "mood disorders are the common cold of major psychiatric illnesses" (Papolos 3). Clinicians have observed for years that "depression and manic depression are very common illnesses and tend to concentrate in families" (Papolos 3).
Depression and mania are not synonymous with the normal mood cycles of joy and sorrow. Upon first observation, mood disorders mimic the highs and lows of life, however, the difference is that depression is not short lived. Severe mood disorders can last from a few months to several years (Depression 438). Sadness is a natural response to loss, disappointment, or trauma, and may actually be psychologically beneficial due to the fact that it allows one to withdraw from unpleasant or offensive situations, thus aiding in recovery. Moreover, feelings of elation from success or a blissful circumstance are normal (Depression 438). However, extreme moods that last longer than relatively brief periods of time are indications of severe disorders. A depressed person may slow down to such a degree that decision making becomes impossible and "everyday tasks and challenges become intimidating" (Papolos 5). Those who suffer from manic-depression swing from "periods of super-activity, manic elation, and grandiose schemes to periods of despondency, immobility, guilt, and inability to experience pleasure or even think normally" (Papolos 4). Psychiatrists now call this disorder 'bipolar.' Those who suffer "depression without the highs, are said to have unipolar or nonbipolar major depression" (Papolos 4). Professionals group these disturbances together "under the rubric major affective disorders" (Papolos 4). Although, the cause of depression is not entirely understood, family tendency, heredity, seems to be a factor (Depression 438).
In another book by Papolos, "The Bipolar Child," he says "Our study sample showed that over 80% of the children who developed early-onset bipolar disorder had what is known as 'bilineal transmission' - substance abuse and mood disorders appeared on both sides of their families" (Papolos 7). Research has found that positive parent-child relationships create a buffer for a child facing the daily stresses of life. There is evidence for both direct and indirect relations between paternal depression and behavioral problems in young children (Marchand 353). Research indicated that a father's depression during postpartum is a significant predictor of maternal depression, and thus, the mother's depression is a predictor of behavioral problems in young children and teenagers alike. However, a father's depression contributed greatly to the conduct problems of female adolescents and the anxiety levels of male adolescents (Marchand 353). "The mother-child interactions reflect interpersonal processes within the mother-child relationship which may serve as an important pathway by which mothers' depressive symptoms affect the development of externalizing and internalizing behaviors in their young children" (Marchand 353). Depressed mothers tend to exhibit behaviors that range from withdrawing and under-stimulating to becoming hostile, intrusive and over-stimulating (Marchand 353). Studies have long proven that childhood experiences with parents and depression status are important variables in predicting one's perceptions and behaviors in relationships. Negative childhood experiences with a parent or caregiver leads to an insecure adult attachment. Moreover, these experiences are likely to influence depression in adulthood (Hock 167).
There is no one symptom that identifies a child with bipolar disorder. However, irritability, prolonged temper tantrums, hyperactivity, and a history of mood disorders and/or alcoholism within the family are a few indicators. Living with a bipolar child is difficult and exhausting. One parent described it this way, "We feel like we've been thrown into a tornado that is big, black and powerful" (Papolos 7). Parents describe their…