Major depression has a lifetime prevalence of about 15 percent and is about 15 times as common as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder). Major depression is about twice as common in women as in men in all countries and cultures and does not vary in occurrence among different races. It may occur at any age, but the majority of cases occur in adulthood. Studies suggest a genetic predisposition because there is an increased incidence of major depression and alcoholism in relatives of patients with this mood disorder. The diagnosis of depression is often overlooked, especially in patients with chronic neurological disease. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition (DSM-IV) criteria for this diagnosis requires either that the patient have a depressed mood or that the patient have a sustained loss of interest and pleasure. Some depressed patients have a depressed affect or become withdrawn or irritable but do not admit to or complain of feelings of sadness. Almost all, however, complain of reduced energy and easy fatigability, and most have weight disturbances. Their clinical presentation can vary, however, from profound retardation and withdrawal to an irritable, unrelieved agitation. Other symptoms include a loss of interest in activities, diminished emotional bonds, preoccupation with death, guilt, and a sense of worthlessness. The patient may have somatic complaints with memory impairment, fatigability, insomnia, anorexia or hyperrexia, weight loss or gain, and impaired libido. A thought disorder may be present with delusions, but hallucinations are uncommon. Most patients have two or more attacks, and some have clear periods between episodes. Most attacks gradually build over a period of a week to a month, and if untreated may last from 3 to 8 months.
The differential diagnosis of depression includes primary psychiatric syndromes other than major depression such as behaviors associated with schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive neuroses. Medical and neurological disorders either associated with or mimicking depression include malignancy, infections, medications (steroids, reserpine, levodopa, benzodiazepines, propranolol, anticholinesterases), endocrinological dysfunction (Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, apathetic hyperthyroidism, diabetes), pernicious anemia, and electrolyte and nutritional disorders (inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone, hyponatremia, hypokalemia, hypercalcemia). Depression is also associated with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, head trauma, stroke (particularly of the left frontal lobe), and Huntington's disease. Interictal changes in temporal lobe epilepsy may mimic depression, particularly with right-sided epileptic foci. Patients with diencephalic and temporal region tumors may also present with depressive symptoms. Equally important, depressive signs and symptoms may be incorrectly diagnosed as dementia, especially in the elderly population.
In patients with bipolar disorder, mania that is severe enough to compromise functioning must be present in addition to depression. The lifetime risk for developing bipolar disorder is 0.6 to 1.0 percent. While the type of inheritance is uncertain, there is a strong genetic influence. These manic periods usually develop over a few days and may be associated with hallucinations and delusions. The attacks are usually separated in time by months or years, but there may be more rapid cycling in a minority of patients. Symptoms consistent with mania include euphoria, emotional lability, irritability, and a demanding and egocentric demeanor. The patient may be loud and have word rhyming or pressured speech with a flight of ideas. He or she may demonstrate poor judgment, disorganization, and agitation, possibly accompanied by paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations.
The differential diagnosis of bipolar disorder includes other psychiatric syndromes including schizophrenia and personality disorders. Medical and neurological conditions that may be associated with mania or may be mistaken for bipolar disorder include CNS masses, infections (neurosyphilis, encephalitis), and hyperthyroidism. Steroids, cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens, baclofen, bromocriptine, pergolide, methylphenidate, and levodopa may all cause symptoms consistent with mania. Other neurological disorders that may include mania as part of their presentation include multiple sclerosis, head trauma, stroke, temporal lobe epilepsy, and Wilson's disease.
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