Mood disorders are a category of mental health illnesses where someone’s continual emotional state is considerably disturbed. It includes every kind of depressive and bipolar disorder.
More than 20 percent of adults in America will experience a mood disorder at some time in their lives. Nearly ten percent of adults in the US had a mood disorder in the past year.
Symptoms of a mood disorder can range from a very low mood (depressed) to a very high or irritable one (manic).
A variety of factors contribute to mood disorders. They often seem to run in families.
Stressful life events such as trauma, bereavement, a relationship break-up, job loss and financial problems frequently look to trigger them. Presently, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is also a major trigger.
It was pioneering psychiatrist Henry Maudsley (1835–1918) who first suggested an overall category that was named “affective disorder”. Over the years the term has been replaced by mood disorder, but it is sometimes still called affective disorder or mood affective disorder.
What are the major signs of a mood disorder?
Not knowing the symptoms of a mood disorder can mean people go untreated for longer than they should. There are several types of mood disorders, but they share some similar signs.
These signs will be more intense and persist for longer than just a normal mood change. Mood disorder symptoms can include:
A continual empty feeling of worthlessness.
Ongoing sadness, including crying (often for no obvious reason).
Having low self-esteem.
Irritability and restlessness.
Hostility and/or aggression.
Feeling a sense of isolation.
Problems making decisions.
Feeling excessively guilty.
Appetite changes, often leading to weight fluctuations.
Physical and mental fatigue.
Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were once pleasurable (including sex).
Relationship issues with partners, but also with friends, family and colleagues.
Feeling hopeless and/or helpless.
Insomnia or sleeping more than usual.
Physical issues such as stomach aches, headaches, and other pains with no apparent reason.
Repetitive thoughts about death.
Suicidal thoughts and/or attempting suicide.
These symptoms are usually continual and will negatively impact on daily life. For instance, they can lead to not being able to work as usual or making excuses not to attend social events.
What are the most common mood disorders?
There are several common types of mood disorders:
Major depressive disorder (MDD).
Also referred to as major depression or clinical depression, MDD involves periods of extreme sadness, hopelessness, less interest in usual activities and lack of focus and energy for at least a fortnight.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD).
Also still known as dysthymia, this is a persistent mild depressed or irritable mood. PDD symptoms usually come and go over a period of years. Their intensity can alter over time. But most often PDD symptoms do not go away for more than two months at a time.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Symptoms include mood swings, depressed mood, hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, palpitations, anger and anxiety in the week (sometimes two weeks) before the start of menstruation.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Also known as “winter depression”, SAD is a mood disorder when people with normal mental health throughout most of the year develop depressive symptoms at a similar time every year, most commonly in winter.
This mood disorder is a condition in which someone has periods of depression alternating with periods of mania or elevated mood. Formerly called manic depression, mania is euphoric and/or irritable moods combined with increased energy and activity. During manic episodes, people can display overconfidence and feel like they need little sleep. They are also more likely to indulge in risky behavior – such as drinking excessively, having casual sex or spending money without care.
Also known as cyclothymia, this is a less intense but often longer-lasting type of bipolar disorder. A person with cyclothymic disorder has the high and low moods of bipolar – but they are not as severe. These symptoms normally need to have persisted for two years before a diagnosis is given.
Substance-induced mood disorder.
This is a form of depression caused by using drugs including some medications and alcohol.
Mood disorder related to another health condition.
Cancer, chronic illnesses, injuries and some infections can lead to symptoms of depression.
Without professional treatment, a mood disorder is unlikely to go away. More likely is that the negative feelings and negative impacts on life will intensify and last for months or years.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that focuses on becoming aware of and changing negative thoughts and behaviors for more positive ones. CBT has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of mood disorders.
Everybody has a bad day, everybody gets depressed. But when you get so depressed that you cannot function with your job, you cannot function with your family, you isolate, you sleep a lot – that is a sign of not only depression but there possibly could be some anxiety. Or there could be some trauma within your life that you might not even recognize.
If you or someone you love is suffering form depression it might seem as if there's no way out. But there is – and there are proven ways of successfully treating depression. At our recovery oasis at Tikvah Lake we have everything in place for this successful treatment. Starting with where we are located here among the palm trees.
For a number of factors it’s increasing every year. One current reason is that many more people than usual are facing uncertainty due to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.
Self-isolation and social distancing because of the virus has only caused to make a depressed person’s sense of isolation worse. Then there is the anxiety – a condition often linked with depression – of increased financial worries.
If someone you know has depression and they turn to you there are several things you can do to help them. There are also several things you definitely shouldn’t do.
However the first thing to realize is that while you can be a valuable support, anyone suffering from depression really needs to seek professional help as soon as possible. They will need to see a therapist who is experienced in treating depression.
Depression left on its own is most often a progressive condition. That means it’s going to get worse.
It is thought to be caused by several factors. An expert can guide someone suffering as to what might be the likely cause of their depression.
These types include clinical depression, situational depression, seasonal depression, perinatal depression, bipolar disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
What’s a diagnosis of clinical depression?
Many people who seek help will get a diagnosis of clinical depression. Also sometimes called a major depressive disorder or major depression, it has specific diagnostic criteria.
This is written in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that’s the guidebook published by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s used by experts to diagnose most mental health disorders including clinical depression.
The DSM-5 says that somebody has to be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms in the same fortnight. These cannot be because of another medical condition or from substance abuse.
These symptoms need to have caused the person significant distress or impairment in occupational, social or other important areas of functioning. At least one of these symptoms has to be either “markedly diminished interest or pleasure” or “depressed mood”.
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
So if you think someone is depressed or they tell you they are it’s helpful to know what to say and do. The first thing is to realize it’s difficult to know the right words to say to someone in this condition.
So don’t be afraid to say: “I don’t really know what to say to you right now.” That will take the pressure off you.
Often the best thing you can offer to someone who’s depressed is your just being there. Providing a shoulder to cry on can be very comforting.
Before knowing what to say that might provide help it’s perhaps more useful to understand what not to say and do.
What not to say or do to someone with depression
Dismiss their feelings in any way.
Compare their feelings to other people such as saying: “My cousin has it worse than you and they don’t get like this” or “You think you’ve got it bad…”
Play down their symptoms by saying such as: “Well, you don’t look depressed.”
Show any lack of concern.
Say that they are being selfish by saying such as: “You just think of yourself all the time.”
Be dismissive by saying something like: “You’ll get over it!”
Use phrases that might have good intentions but that might just seem as if you are making their depression sound easy to get through: “You just need to cheer up” or “This won’t last forever.”
Say anything that suggests it’s their fault such as: “It’s all in your head” or “It’s not that bad.”
Offer them drink or drugs in an attempt to deal with it. While it might push the negative feelings down for a few hours it doesn’t mean they have gone away. They will still be there and often the drinking or drug-taking just exacerbates feelings of despair and isolation.
Remember it’s often extremely difficult for someone with depression to open up. This may be due to feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed or bewildered.
Deep inside they may sense they have to look at a past trauma. This can seem overwhelming – a very big and frightening thing to do.
Or there is still a lingering stigma in some places and with some people about having depression. The person suffering with depression might not want people to know.
A depressed person might be anxious they will be looked down on as they are seen to “not be coping”. So as someone they have turned to, or if you have noticed that someone is depressed, you can ask them how they are – and let them know you’re always there for them.
What can I say and do for someone with depression?
Let them know you really care.
Ask them how you can help them.
Remember that really listening – without judgement – is one of the most loving things you can do.
Look after any immediate things they need doing. This builds trust.
Say you will help them find a therapist.
Always show understanding and empathy.
Be with them in the here and now.
Stay with them and do not be anxious about having to say exactly the right thing.
Give them a feeling of hope that they can get through it.
Show them unconditional love. Tell them you love them.