Mood disorders encompass a wide array of mood issues, such as major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder. Approximately 20.9 million American adults suffer from these disorders.
Children, teens, and adults can have mood disorders. However, children and teens don’t always have the same symptoms as adults. It’s harder to diagnose mood disorders in children because they aren’t always able to express how they feel.
Therapy, antidepressants, and support and self-care can help treat mood disorders
What causes mood disorders?
Many factors contribute to mood disorders. They are likely caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Life events (such as stressful life changes or tragedies) may also contribute to a depressed mood. Mood disorders also tend to run in families.
The Symptoms of Mood Disorders
Everyone feels down from time to time. Work is busy. Your kids’ schedules are overwhelming. You’re not getting enough sleep, and you’d rather spend the day at home in your sweats in front of the TV. You can’t muster the energy to do the things you need to do or the things you want to do. We’ve all been there. How do you know if you’re just burned out or if you’re actually depressed?
It can be hard to distinguish between a bad mood or exhaustion and actual depression because the symptoms can be similar. While the word “depression” often brings to mind images of extreme sadness or inactivity, the mood changes related to depression are often more subtle than that, especially for women. Plus, it tends to affect more women than men.
But in reality, mood disorders aren’t that dramatic fewer than 50 percent of depressed people even describe themselves as sad. And not knowing the signs of a mood disorder can lead individuals to go untreated for longer than they should.
So how do you decide if it’s time to get help? Understand the symptoms of mood disorders to determine if one is suffering from this psychological problem or their sadness is just temporary. The emotional symptoms of mood disorders 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
- Irritability, aggression or hostility
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
The physical symptoms of mood disorders include the following:
- 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
These symptoms may be more intense and last longer than what you normally experience every now and then. For instance, they might interfere with your ability to work or to enjoy being with friends and family.
The Different Types of Mood Disorders
The most common types of mood disorders include:
- 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.
This is a chronic, low-grade, depressed, or irritable mood that lasts for at least 2 years. 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.
- Bipolar Disorder
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.
- Psychotic Depression
It occurs when psychosis, a complete break from reality, and depression are both present.
- Postpartum Depression
It 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
An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that is typically characterized by increased sleepiness, irritability, fatigue, diminished concentration and other symptoms. While some suffer from a spring-onset type of SAD, others suffer from a fall or winter onset.
- Depression Associated with Other Medical Conditions
Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic illnesses) can trigger symptoms of depression.
- Substance-Induced Mood Disorder
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.
Who is at Risk for Mood Disorders?
Anyone can feel sad or depressed at times. However, mood disorders are more intense and harder to manage than normal feelings of sadness. Children, teens, or adults who have a parent with a mood disorder have a greater chance of also having a mood disorder. However, life events and stress can expose or worsen feelings of sadness or depression, making the feelings harder to manage.
Sometimes, life’s problems can trigger depression. Being fired from a job, getting divorced, losing a loved one, death in the family, and financial trouble, to name a few, all can be difficult and coping with the pressure may be troublesome. These life events and stress can bring on feelings of sadness or depression or make a mood disorder harder to manage.
The risk of depression in women is nearly twice as high as it is for men. Once a person in the family has this diagnosis, their brothers, sisters, or children have a higher chance of the same diagnosis. In addition, relatives of people with depression are also at increased risk for bipolar disorder.
Treatment for Mood Disorders
Feeling sad is normal, but not if it lasts for days. Mood Disorders can affect all parts of your life, along with your own sense of mental well-being. If you are experiencing the symptoms of mood disorders it is important that you seek medical help as soon as possible. Mood disorders can be treated with success using anti-depressant and mood stabilizing medications, especially when combined with psychotherapy have shown to work very well in the treatment of depression