CHICAGO — U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s disclosure that he is suffering from a “mood disorder” 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.
But it offered no details about Jackson's wherabouts 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.
Several physicians who did not have firsthand knowledge of Jackson's condition said the term “mood disorder” typically refers to depression or bipolar disorder, which used to be known as manic depression.
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.
Jackson faces a Republican and independent candidate in November, though he's widely expected to win re-election.
Photo: Jesse Jackson Jr.