Depression and Mood Disorders

All people have days when they feel blue or irritable. However, if someone has a negative mood that lasts for many days in a row it may reflect a depressive disorder. Additionally, some people have dramatic shifts between depressed mood lasting for several weeks to expansive moods. Although much less common than depressive disorders, bipolar disorder affects college students. Bipolar disorder involves periods of depressive episodes and manic or hypomanic episodes. Below you will find a description of the common symptoms of clinical depression and of mania. You will also find a link to a depression screening. If you think you or one of your friends may be suffering from a mood disorder, the Counseling Center is available to help.

Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive Episode (DSM-IV)

A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure, in all, or in almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting (or weight gain), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

B. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

C. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hypothyroidism).

D. The symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one.



Diagnostic Criteria for Manic Episode (DSM-IV)

A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week.

B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted and have been present to a significant degree:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity.
  • Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep).
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking.
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing.
  • Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli).
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work, or school, or sexually).
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, or sexual indiscretions).

C. The mood disturbance is sufficiently severe so as to cause marked impairment in occupational functioning or in usual social activities or relationships with others, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features.

D. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

Depression and Suicide at W&L.

National Institute of Mental Health publication on Depression and College Students.