Jackson's 'Mood Disorder' Raising More Questions?

(M. Spencer Green, File/AP)
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By SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s disclosure that he is suffering from a "mood disorder" still leaves many questions about his secretive medical leave and whether the Illinois congressman has satisfied mounting calls to be more open about his monthlong absence.

Just hours after Democratic leaders in Congress ratcheted up pressure on Jackson to reveal more information, his office released a brief statement from his doctor on Wednesday saying the Chicago Democrat was receiving "intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder."

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But it offered no details about Jackson's whereabouts or even the name of the doctor, citing federal privacy laws.

Several experts said that based on the doctor's use of the term "mood disorder," they believed Jackson might be suffering from depression. But the statement did not elaborate on his condition and rejected claims that the 47-year-old congressman was being treated for "alcohol or substance abuse."

"He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery," the statement said. His spokesman declined to elaborate.

When Jackson's medical leave was first announced — two weeks after it began on June 10 — his office said he was being treated for exhaustion. Last week his staff said his condition was worse than previously thought and required inpatient treatment, saying Jackson had been privately battling emotional problems. The office has remained mum on details.

The timing of the leave has invited scrutiny, coming as Jackson faces an ethics investigation in the U.S. House connected to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Days before Jackson's office announced his leave, a fundraiser and family friend also involved in the probe was arrested and charged with unrelated medical fraud charges.

The Associated Press on Wednesday interviewed several physicians who didn't have firsthand knowledge of Jackson's condition but said the term "mood disorder" typically refers to depression or bipolar disorder, which used to be known as manic depression.

Dr. Daniel Yohanna, vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, said depression is more common and affects about 5 percent of men at some point in their lives. Symptoms can range from sleep disturbance and appetite problems to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide, though cure rates are very high, he said.

"It could come out of nowhere, it runs in families, you could have a genetic predisposition, or it can come after a difficulty in your life," Yohanna said. "Once it gets rolling it's hard to stop it on your own."

Ian Gotlib, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, said depression is generally treated on an outpatient basis. But he said that if doctors were concerned about the safety of the patient or if the disorder were severe enough, they could recommend inpatient treatment.

"The good news is that it's clearly treatable," Gotlib said, adding that counseling and prescription drugs would be likely for inpatient treatment and that it could take weeks.

It's unclear whether Wednesday's statement would temper the mounting demands for full disclosure of the congressman's ailment.

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Before Jackson's statement was released, Democratic leaders in the U.S. House joined Jackson's colleagues and constituents in urging the congressman to provide a public update about his condition. House Leader Nancy Pelosi, when asked about Jackson, said she hoped he would have "the appropriate evaluation so he can share that information."

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. House, said Wednesday that Jackson wasn't in "an unusual circumstance."

"People get sick, and when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that," Hoyer said. "But I think the family would be well advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate."