Depression is the most common mood disorder; a person with depression feels “very low.” Symptoms may include: feelings of hopelessness, changes in eating patterns, disturbed sleep, constant tiredness, an inability to have fun, and thoughts of death or suicide.
People with bipolar disorder have periods of depression and periods of feeling unusually “high” or elated. The “highs” get out of hand, and the manic person can behave in a reckless manner, sometimes to the point of financial ruin or getting in trouble with the law.
The Relationship between Psychiatric Disorders and Mood Disorders
Depression is a common feature of mental illness, whatever its nature and origin. A person with a history of any serious psychiatric disorder has almost as high a chance of developing major depression as someone who has had major depression itself in the past.
Types of Mood Disorders
Major depression is the most common mood disorder. This debilitating illness causes mental anguish and physical ailments. It often prevents normal daily function. While some people with depression may experience only one episode of major depression in a lifetime, most endure multiple episodes.
Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is a milder form of depression. It may not hinder a person’s ability to function in daily life, but increase long term moodiness.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is less common. Bipolar disorder is a combination of extreme elation, which is known as mania, and depression.
Depressive Disorders and Major Depressive Disorder
Dysthymia is diagnosed when a person suffers from depression for two or more years. Although it is not as debilitating as major depression, dysthymia can prevent normal functioning. People with dysthymia can also experience episodes of major depression.
Depressive disorders and major depressive disorder differ in severity and length of symptoms. Minor depression is defined by a period of at least two weeks of depression. Minor depressive episodes do not fully meet the criteria for major depression but can develop into major depression if left untreated.
Other forms of depression exist as well. Psychotic depression occurs when psychosis, a complete break from reality, and depression are both present. Postpartum depression is sometimes experienced by new mothers. This form of depression results from physical and hormonal changes combined with the pressure of caring for a newborn. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects people during times of decreased sunlight, particularly in the winter months when the days are shorter.
Bipolar disorder is a dangerous and debilitating disorder that causes a person’s mood, activity and energy levels to shift unexpectedly. People with bipolar disorder experience severe mania, and they may or may not have episodes of depression. They usually have some periods of partial or full stability as well.
Dual Diagnosis: Substance-Induced Mood Disorders
The most common psychiatric co-occurring disorders are substance abuse and mood disorders. It is common for people with mood disorders to turn to substance abuse. The substance abuse, in turn, exacerbates the effects of the mood disorder. With careful assessment and screening, a psychiatrist can better distinguish between symptoms of mood disorder and substance intoxication or withdrawal. Some people experience reduced cravings for substances once their co-occurring depression or bipolar disorder is treated.
What Causes Mood Imbalances?
What causes mood imbalances is difficult to pinpoint. Depression is thought to be caused by a combination of environmental, psychological, biological and genetic factors. The most enduring theories involve neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain, causing an imbalance that leads to depression. So far, this theory has been difficult to verify.
Scientists are still studying the causes of bipolar disorder, but the consensus is that bipolar disorder is caused by several factors working together. As bipolar disorder tends to be hereditary, researchers are currently trying to find a gene that may increase the risk of developing the disorder. Brain imaging studies show that the brains of people with bipolar disorder and depression differ from healthy brains, which suggests that brain structure and functioning may play a role in the development of mood disorders.
Emotional Symptoms of Mood Disorders
Emotional symptoms of mood disorders are not the same for all people. Emotional symptoms of depression include:
- Thoughts of and attempts at suicide
- Loss of interest in activities that were pleasurable in the past
- Unyielding anxiety, sadness or feelings of emptiness
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or guilt
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
Emotional symptoms of mania include:
- Prolonged periods of elation
- Irritability, agitation or excessive energy
- Feelings of grandiosity
- Impulsive, risky or hedonistic behavior
Physical Symptoms of Mood Disorder
As with emotional symptoms, physical symptoms of mood disorder may differ from one person to the next. Physical symptoms of depression include:
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Headaches, body aches, pains, cramps or digestive problems
- Difficulty remembering details, making decisions or concentrating
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Excessive sleeping or insomnia
Physical symptoms of mania include:
- Racing thoughts and jumping from one idea to the next
- Pressured or rapid speech
- Increased goal-directed activities
- Being easily distracted
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Mood Imbalance
People with mood disorders tend to alienate friends and family. They often have trouble in school and at work and have difficulty keep a job. Those with mania tend to have problems with authority figures. Those with depression have a high risk of suicide. With mania comes the risk of death, injury or trauma caused by reckless and dangerous behavior.
Self-Assessment for Mood Disorders
Mood disorder tests are available on the Internet, but their reliability is questionable. If you suspect you have depression or bipolar disorder, you should speak with a doctor. Talk to your general practitioner, who should be able to help you or refer you to a mental health professional.
Mood Stabilizing Drugs
Depression is typically treated with antidepressant medications. Antidepressants work to restore neurotransmitters. The specifically targeted neurotransmitters are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Bipolar disorder is first treated with mood-stabilizing medications.
Individual counseling plays an important role in treatment of Mood Disorders. Willing Ways is a state of the art facility with highly trained and experienced professionals who work with the patient and teach them the skills by which they can live with the daily stream of life happily.
Getting Help for a Mood Disorder
If you need help finding treatment on mood disorder, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us. We are here 24/7 to assist you.