Feeling some kind of roller coaster of emotions in your everyday life is relatively normal. For example, relationship problems or financial troubles may get you down or sad, while a promotion or good grade may have you feeling on top of the world. However, when these serious changes in mood causes a disruption in your normal life activities, it is classified as a mood disorder.
Mood disorders have been found to affect about 20% of the general population at any given point and about 17% in some countries are thought to suffer depression at some point in their lives. There are however significant decreases in reports involving manic moods as they generally go unnoticed or are not problematic. For most people, mood disorders can be treated with psychotherapy or medications or a combination of both.
Even though there are generally numerous types of mood disorders, the three major states are: depression, mania and bipolar. Major depressive disorder usually presents symptoms of an overall depressed mood; mania and hypomania usually involves elevated moods, while bipolar mood disorders are characterized by the cycling between both depressed and manic moods. It is also important to note that these disorders can vary in intensity and severity. Listed below are a few types and subtypes of mood disorders:
- Major depressive disorder – prolonged and persistent periods of extreme sadness
- Bipolar disorder – also known as manic depression, it involves alternating times of depression and mania.
- Cyclothymic disorder – a disorder that causes emotional ups and downs similar to that of bipolar but less severe.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – mood changes and irritability that occur during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle and disappears with the onset of menses. Read more
- Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) – a chronic form of depression.
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – characterized by a chronic and severe irritability in children that leads to and includes temper outbursts that are not in line with the child’s age.
- Substance induced depression – characterized by depression symptoms that develop during or soon after substance use/withdrawal or after exposure to certain medications.
The Risk Factors
Much like most mental health disorders, medical professionals and researches have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause of these conditions, however most can agree that a combination of both biological and environmental factors come into play when looking at a predisposition to these disorders. For example, if a member of your family has been diagnosed with a mood disorder, you are more at risk of developing one yourself, even though the chances are still relatively low. Traumatic life events have also been known to cause certain mood disorders.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Depression and bipolar disorder (manic depression) are both generally very treatable illness as far as mental health problems go. The main issue is that most people do not seek or find the help they need due to fear of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mood disorders in certain parts of the world. Below are a list of a few signs to look out for in the case of someone suffering from depression or bipolar disorder:
- Prolonged sadness or inexplicable crying spells
- Pessimism or indifference
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Irritability, anger, worry and anxiety
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Having trouble concentrating and indecisiveness
- Symptoms of Mania(“highs”)
- Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self confidence.
- Increased physical and mental activity.
- Racing speech, thoughts and flight of ideas.
- Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self importance.
- Decreased need for sleep without any fatigue.
- Reckless behavior and poor judgment.
- Symptoms of depression(“lows”)
- Prolonged sadness or inexplicable crying spells.
- Pessimism or indifference.
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
- Irritability, anger, worry and anxiety.
- Unexplained aches and pains.
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests.
- Social withdrawal.
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
- Having trouble concentrating and indecisiveness.
How mood disorders are diagnosed
In order to diagnose mood disorders, your mental health professional will likely perform the following:
- A physical exam – To check for any possible medical conditions that could be causing the problems or symptoms.
- Blood tests to check your thyroid and tests such as an ECG or EKG for your heart.
- A psychological evaluation – Used to access and determine your mood and mental health stability
Mood disorders are usually treated through medications and psychotherapy. Although it is possible to get rid of the mood disorder, it is not uncommon for them to persist throughout a lifetime or to come and go on occasion.
The types of medications prescribed are usually antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs to help cope with the emotional distress and mood disorder as a whole. However, medications are more often than not used in tandem with psychotherapy.
Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is focused on changing thought patterns and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most often used and considered the benchmark treatment for individuals living with mood disorders. It has been found to produce very positive results and in some cases it is enough to treat a mood disorder on its own.