Mood Disorder


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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a psychiatric disease that causes extreme mood swings. At times a person who has bipolar disorder may feel very happy, full of energy and able to do anything. The person may not even want to rest when he or she feels this way. This feeling is called “mania”. At other times, a person who has bipolar disorder may feel very sad and depressed. The person may not want to do anything when he or she feels this way. This is called “depression”. People with bipolar disorder can go quickly from mania to depression and back again.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is known to run in families. If you have a parent who has bipolar disorder, you have a greater chance of having it.

How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

It is recommended that a Mental Health Care Provider monitor and prescribe treatment for bipolar disorder. Treatment usually includes:

  • Medication: Mood-stabilizing medications are usually prescribed to help control bipolar disorder. In general,
    people with bipolar disorder continue treatment with mood stabilizers for years. Other medications may be added as necessary to provide
    short-term treatment for episodes of manic and depressive episodes that break through despite the mood stabilizer.
  • Psychotherapy OR “Talk Therapy”: In psychotherapy, you talk with your Health Care Provider about things that are going
    on in your life. The focus may be on your thoughts and beliefs or on your relationships. The focus may also be on your behavior and how it
    is affecting you and what you can do differently.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder causes wide mood swings—from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between.

Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic or “up” 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 medication
  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

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

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feeling 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.

If you have an urgent problem, you can access services through the Psychiatric emergency clinic at (858) 642-3391 or the Emergency Department.

Mood Disorder Resources


San Diego VA Health Care System
Please contact your Primary Care Provider or member of the OEF/OIF Care Team for a referral for mental health services available at the San Diego VA.
Primary Care Line:
(858) 552-7475

OEF/OIF Care Team Contacts:

Mission Valley & Chula Vista:
Bridget Salzman, MSW
(619) 400-5271

La Jolla:
Rikka Bonnette, LCSW
(858) 642-3615

Patrick O’Shea, MSW
(760) 643-2079

San Diego Access and Crisis Line
(800) 479-3339

24/7 hotline connects individuals to a trained counselor for support and access to local resources.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
P. O. Box 12774
La Jolla, California 92039
(858) 444-6776

A peer-facilitated support group of people who support one another on our road to wellness. Emphasizes education in all areas that relate to bipolar and depressive illnesses, including the identification of community resources available to help those affected by these disorders. Meets every Monday and Thursday from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the VA San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla, CA for support group sessions, where people get to discuss issues related to their mental health diagnoses with others who have dealt with similar issues.

Mood Disorder Program
8804 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 637-3000

Offers specialized counseling and support groups for individuals who are dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or other mood disorders. Offers individual, group and family therapy.

Family Wellness Unit
217 Highland Avenue
National City, CA 91950
(619) 779-7900

Provides outpatient mental health counseling to children, adults, families and couples. Provides treatment for Major Depressive and Anxiety disorders through counseling and medication management. Sliding scale fees based on family size and income.

Mood Tracker Application

T2 Mood Tracker is a mobile application that allows users to self-monitor, track and reference their emotional experience over a period of days, weeks and months using a visual analogue rating scale. For iTunes (iOS) and Google Play (Android).

Give An Hour

A nonprofit organization providing free mental health services to U.S. military personnel and families affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.