of Mood Disorders •
& Symptoms •
with Mood Disorder •
Family & Friends Can Help
of sadness and discouragement are normal emotional reactions
to difficult situations. But when these feelings last more
than a few weeks, or get so bad that they take control of
a person's life, it could be a sign of a mood disorder.
A high percentage of those who suffer from mood disorders
could be effectively treated, and those who are treated realize
some benefit. But many go untreated, largely because they
do not recognize the illness or notice the patterns, blaming
the symptoms on flu, stress, lack of sleep or poor diet. If
left untreated, depression could eventually lead to suicide.
If people recognize the symptoms and patterns early and seek
treatment, they can avoid much needless suffering.
Types of Mood Disorders
Mood disorders fall into two basic categories:
unipolar and bipolar disorder. Unipolar disorder, known as
is one of the most common mood disorders and can range from
mild to life-threatening. It can appear at any age, and one
in five women and one in 10 men will experience one of the
following forms of depression sometime in their lives.
Clinical depression refers to a condition serious enough to
require professional treatment. A person who experiences severe
depression during a single period is said to have had an episode
of clinical depression. Major depression is marked by more
severe or exaggerated symptoms.
When a person exhibits depressive symptoms,
however mild, on a frequent or constant basis, that person
likely suffers from a dysthymic disorder. When a major depressive
episode strikes someone with dysthymia, it is called double
A more recently identified form of depression
- seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - is
triggered by seasonal changes, like weather patterns or the
amount of available daylight.
Some forms of mood disorders are limited
to women. Post-partum depression (PPD) may
occur in some women after giving birth. Premenstrual
syndrome (PMS) causes mood swings during monthly
menstrual cycles. Mood disorders may also occur in women during
menopause. In any of these cases, physicians believe that
the severe depressions are a sign that another affective disorder
disorder, known as manic-depression, is the most
distinct and dramatic of the mood disorders. It is more than
just a simple mood swing. Manic-depressives experience sudden
dramatic shifts from one emotional extreme, or "pole,"
to the other, usually with periods of normal behavior between
The manic phase is marked by feelings of
utter happiness and high energy. Feelings of despair and hopelessness
are common in the depressive phase. It is estimated that one
in 100 people suffer from manic-depression. It generally strikes
before 35 years of age. The cycles between the low of depression
and the high of mania varies from person to person, as do
the other symptoms of manic-depression.
research has led to a significant understanding of mood disorders,
scientists have not found the exact triggering mechanism.
Most likely there is no single cause. However, recent studies
have linked mood disorders to genetic changes in body chemistry.
These changes usually involve imbalances of neurotransmitters
(chemicals that allow brain cells to communicate), particularly
serotonin and norepinephrine. Bipolar patients often also
respond to certain hormones in a way that indicates there
are irregularities in how these hormones are produced and
relatives of people with mood disorders are sometimes more
likely to develop either depression or manic-depression than
the general population. Other factors, such as negative family
relationships, serious illness, major loss or change, and
substance abuse, can cause or complicate depression. Even
gender and sensitivity to seasonal changes can play a role
in mood disorders.
who suffer from mood disorders will likely display one or
more of the following behaviors:
of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, total indifference
and/or extreme guilt
sadness; unexplained crying spells
or irritability; withdrawal from formerly enjoyable activities
to concentrate or remember details
of appetite or great increase in appetite; constant fatigue,
ailments that cannot be explained otherwise
of death or suicide attempts
to depressive symptoms, people who suffer from manic-depressive
disorder will likely display one or more of the following
behaviors during the manic phase:
euphoric or expansive mood
and anger that is inconsistent with the situation
ideas or delusions; extreme optimism
of good judgment
of ideas or racing thoughts; talking in a rush and changing
from topic to topic; disorganized thoughts
need for sleep
rage, irritability or paranoia
disorders are some of the most treatable of all mental illnesses.
Nearly all of those who receive treatment experience some
benefit. Before treatment begins, patients should seek a full
medical evaluation to rule out any other mental or physical
disorders which could mimic mood disorders. Like many other
mental illnesses, mood disorders are usually treated with
medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Patients
can usually see relief of their symptoms in just a few weeks.
medications are used to correct imbalances of certain neurotransmitters.
Five groups of medications are most often prescribed for depression:
tricyclic antidepressants; monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs);
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); and serotonin
and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs); and other
of antidepressant medications depends on a person's overall
health, weight and metabolism, and other unique physical traits,
and they are usually prescribed to fit the individual. If
one medication doesn't work, the physician may try another
or a combination of medications to determine the most effective
regimen. Generally, antidepressants become fully effective
within three to six weeks.
involves the verbal interaction between trained professionals
and patients. The therapist uses techniques to help the patient
gain personal insight that will allow him or her to positively
change thoughts, feelings or behaviors.
forms of this "talk treatment" have proven to be
helpful in the treatment of mood disorders. They include:
interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy,
psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
forms of therapy are electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and light
therapy. While its use has decreased as more advanced medications
have been developed, ECT remains very effective for treating
patients who cannot tolerate or take medications due to medical
conditions, old age, malnutrition, or those who do not respond
to antidepressant medications. Light therapy is used primarily
for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Patients
using this treatment spend regular therapeutic sessions bathed
in light from a full-spectrum light source.
with Mood Disorder
many other mental illnesses, mood disorders can be destructive
if left untreated. The depressions can complicate relationships,
especially with close family and friends. A victim's employment
and financial standing are also at great risk. They can even
result in suicide. Mood disorders can make a person feel fatigued,
worthless, helpless and hopeless. It is important to realize
these feelings are a result of the depression and do not accurately
reflect a person's true situation. Until treatment takes effect,
a person suffering with serious depression should:
realistic goals and expectations;
time with other people;
in enjoyable activities;
the advice of close friends or family before making important
they will not "snap out" of their depression;
positively and reject negative thoughts.
Family and Friends Can Help
important thing family and friends can do for the depressed
person is to help him or her get treatment. This may involve
encouraging the patient to stay with the treatment, going
with the patient to the doctor, or even monitoring whether
the patient is taking medication.
important way to help is to offer emotional support - understanding,
patience, affection and encouragement. Always listen to the
depressed person. Do not ignore any remarks about suicide;
report them to the doctor immediately.