Background

Mood disorders magnify human experiences to larger-than-life proportions. Among their symptoms are exaggerations of normal sadness and fatigue, joy and exuberance, sensuality and sexuality, irritability and rage, energy and creativity. In their diverse forms, mood disorders afflict a large number of people—the exact number depending on how the illnesses are defined and how accurately they are ascertained. First described thousands of years ago, found in widely diverse cultures, manic-depressive illness is the prototypic mood disorder. To those afflicted, it can be so painful that suicide seems the only means of escape; one of every five untreated manic-depressive individuals actually commits suicide. (1)

In this chapter, we draw on and expand our previous descriptions of depression and manic-depressive illness.

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