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 Over the years the term has been replaced by mood disorder, but it is sometimes still called affective disorder or mood affective disorder.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).
- Persistent anxiety.
- Having low self-esteem.
- Irritability and restlessness.
- Hostility and/or aggression.
- Feeling a sense of isolation.
- Concentration difficulties.
- 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.
- Bipolar disorder.
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.
- Cyclothymic disorder.
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.
Good sleep is also extremely important while being treated for a mood disorder. Disturbed sleep can be a trigger for depression and bipolar disorder.
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