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Mood Disorder: What You Need to Know

No one is exempted. Each one of us can be subjected to experiencing mood disorders at some point in our lives. We may feel sad or irritable from time to time for several reasons of which we could hardly perceive. Mood swings, depressions, and anxiety, once become severe, may lead to various forms of mood disorders.

Generally, it affects a person’s everyday emotional state. Nearly one in ten people aged 18 and older have mood disorders, which may include manic depression. Mood disorders can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. Treatments include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. With treatment, most people with mood disorders can lead productive lives.

What are the different types of mood disorders?

The following are the most common types of mood disorders:

  • Major depression. Having less interest in usual activities, feeling sad or hopeless, and other symptoms for at least 2 weeks may indicate depression.
  • Dysthymia. This is a chronic, low-grade, depressed, or irritable mood that lasts for at least 2 years.
  • Bipolar disorder. This is a condition in which a person has periods of depression alternating with periods of mania or elevated mood.
  • Mood disorder related to another health condition. Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic illnesses) can trigger symptoms of depression.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder. Symptoms of depression that are due to the effects of medication, drug abuse, alcoholism, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment.

What causes mood disorders?

According to many clinical studies, many factors do contribute to mood disorders. A combination of environmental, psychological, biological and genetic factors seem to be the primary culprits.

They are likely caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Life events such as stressful changes may also contribute to a depressed mood. Mood disorders also tend to run in families.

As some forms of mood disorder tend 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.

What are the symptoms of mood disorders?

Depending on age and the type of mood disorder, a person may have different symptoms of depression. The following are the most common symptoms of a mood disorder:

  • Ongoing sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling inadequate or worthless
  • Excessive guilt
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide
  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Relationship problems
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Decreased energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A decrease in the ability to make decisions
  • Frequent physical complaints
  • Running away or threats of running away from home
  • Very sensitive to failure or rejection
  • Irritability, hostility, or aggression

In mood disorders, these feelings are more intense than what a person may normally feel from time to time. It’s also of concern if these feelings continue over time, or interfere with one’s interest in family, friends, community, or work. Any person who expresses thoughts of suicide should get medical help right away.

The symptoms of mood disorders may look like other conditions or mental health problems. Always consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.

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.

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.

Treatments for affective disorders

There are two main treatments for affective disorders: medication and therapy. Treatment usually involves a combination of both.

There are many different antidepressant medications available. You may need to try several before you find one that helps relieve your symptoms without too many side effects.

Psychotherapy in addition to medication is also an important part of treatment. It can help you learn to cope with your disorder and help change your behaviors that contribute to it.

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