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Types of Mood Disorders – Signs, Causes, and Treatment Plans

Types of Mood Disorders – Signs, Causes, and Treatment Plans

Published on Feb 07, 2023

Types of Mood Disorders – Signs, Causes, and Treatment Plans

Types of mood disorders refer to those psychiatric illnesses that impact the person’s mood and emotional well-being. If a person suffers from affective disorders, they may either show signs of severe depression or intense happiness or both at the same time.

Shortly, mood disorders are characterized by emotional extremes where the person finds it hard to regulate and control their responses as per the needs of the situation. 

Persistent mood swings and emotional extremes can interfere with the person’s daily life. It can hamper relationships, workplace habits, and all aspects of life in small or big ways.

 Let’s understand these diseases and their patterns here.

What is a Mood Disorder?

Mood disorders refer to all those mental health conditions that can affect a person’s mood and overall emotional state. These conditions impact mood in extremes of highs and lows.

When we talk about mood, we mean an emotional state that is persistent and tends to make a person feel in specific ways at a given moment in time.

Mood describes the quality of your feelings and thus it is subject to change as per the situation. The mood is long-term and always has a positive or negative valence.

While discussing mood disorders, it needs to be pointed out that they affect the person’s mood in extremes. People suffering from various types of mood disorders show significant malfunction in feelings and emotions. They have poor emotional maturity and control. 

Sometimes, patients with mood disorders may remain in sadness or persistent hopelessness. They also show extreme happiness without any immediate trigger. 

This means that they lack the ability to regulate their emotions as per the need of the situation. A mood disorder is an umbrella term. It refers to all those affective disorders listed in DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, edition 5) that can lead to emotional highs and lows.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 8 people or an estimated figure of 970 million people is living with mental disorders. They further indicated that about 280 million people are suffering from depression in the year 2019. 

At the same time, WHO data analytics confirmed that 23 million children and adolescents are also suffering from some sort of mood disorder. The data reveals the prevalence rate of the disease globally and the figures are not at all negligible. 

When a person suffers from mood disorders, their emotional responses are inconsistent with the circumstances. The responses interfere with their normal functioning. 

The person may be extremely low, sad, show signs of extreme happiness, or elevated mood states. In both ways, it is abnormal and requires proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you are suffering from mood disorders, it is not likely that you will get better over time. Instead, the symptoms can get really bad if timely treatment is not sought after.

Key Facts about Mood Disorders

Mood disorders encompass a number of psychiatric illnesses where pathological mood states dominate the clinical picture. In the previous editions of DSM, it was known as affective disorders. Usually, these disorders have sustained emotional states that are not normal.

You can say that it involves syndromes of illnesses rather than discrete conditions. The symptoms do come back in a periodic or cyclic fashion.  Some of the key facts about mood disorders are as follows:

  • Mood disorders include different types of serious mental illnesses
  • It includes all types of depression and bipolar disorders
  • The disorders can happen to kids, teenagers, and adults equally well
  • Most often, the disorders are linked to chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Mood disorders are persistent, helpless feelings that may get worse with time.
  • The patient’s symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years, and can come back in episodes throughout life.
  • In mood disorder, the symptoms may remain stable for weeks or months and then can return back all of a sudden.
  •  Mood disorders can lead to cognitive impairment, poor emotional responsiveness, and inconsistent behavior. 
  • The disorder needs treatment in the form of medication, psychotherapy, CBT, family therapy, etc.
  • Long-term follow-up is needed to live a healthy and productive life

Types of Mood Disorders

 As per the recent classification of DSM-5, mood disorders are classified into two groups – bipolar and related disorders and depression disorders.

1. Major depression

This is also known as clinical depression or persistent sad mood that interferes with the person’s daily life. It involves extreme hopelessness and empty feelings. The patient loses interest in daily activities. These symptoms should be present for a minimum of two weeks to be considered for an official diagnosis. 

The sadness and grief go on much later than the exposure of a traumatic incident happened. Patients with MDD (Major depressive disorder) do not get better and show gross cognitive impairment while they are portraying the symptoms.

As per research statistics, 19.4 million adults globally and 7.8% of all adults in the USA had at least one episode of major depression in 2019.

2. Persistent depressive disorder

Another type of depression that is most common is persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymic disorder. This disorder is less severe than clinical depression yet shows sadness, low mood, and hopelessness as symptoms. As this is a low-grade mood disorder, the diagnostic timeline is at 2 years to be considered as a medical illness.

3. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This is a depression that occurs only during certain seasonal conditions. During winter, many people report persistent low mood, loss of interest in doing daily chores, etc. for most patients, signs of depression start by the end of autumn and continue till the spring season. 

The symptoms of SAD are close to major depression but the good part is, the symptoms tend to go away as the winter comes to an end. Research reports indicated that about 5% of people in the USA suffer from seasonal depression.

4. Postpartum depression and perinatal depression

This type of depression is for women who have given birth to a baby. Sometimes, the baby blues cause an intense sad mood and the feelings do not get better without clinical intervention. Clinical findings suggest that 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression, irrespective of their age and cultural background.

5. Depressive disorder due to another medical condition

This diagnosis is meant for people who exhibit signs of clinical depression but the underlying cause is the presence of a physical illness such as hypothyroidism.

Types of Bipolar Mood Disorder

There are various types of bipolar disorders. Some of them are as follows:

1. Bipolar I disorder

This is a serious form of mood disorder. Previously, it was known as manic depressive psychosis. The patient shows both an elated mood /euphoria along with episodes of sadness and depression.

The mania phase is marked by too much happiness, and high energy levels, and can also engage in risk-taking activities. In the depressive state, the symptoms are marked by intense sadness, crying spells that are unexplained, pessimism, and low energy levels.

2. Bipolar II disorder

This mental health condition is also marked by both mania and depression. The diagnosis of bipolar II occurs when the patient shows at least one episode of current or past hypomania symptoms.

Sometimes, past episodes of depression are also taken into consideration. This form of bipolar disorder is less severe than bipolar I. Sometimes, timely intervention can help the patient move toward long-term recovery as well.

3. Cyclothymic disorder

In Cyclothymia, the patient exhibits less severe symptoms of depression and mania. Hypomanic symptoms or low-grade depression symptoms should be present for at least 2 years before the official diagnosis is made.

Cyclothymic disorders are present in adolescents and young adults. Research findings suggest that 15 to 50% of people with cyclothymic symptoms can show either bipolar 1 or Bipolar II disorder later in their lives.

4. Substance or medication-induced bipolar disorder

This type of mood disturbance is caused when the person suffers from depression or an elated mood due to the impact of drugs such as alcohol, drugs, and medications.

5. Other specified or unspecified bipolar

This mood disorder occurs when the person does not meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar 1 disorder but shows clinically significant mood disturbances for some time now. 

Other Depressive Mood Disorders

Two more mood disorders are listed in DSM-5 other than the common ones discussed in the section above. They are –

1. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

This is a form of depressive disorder in children from the age group of 6 to 18 years. For diagnosis, the children will have to show irritable mood, anger, frequent episodes of temper tantrums, feeling sad at times, and restless without any immediate provocation. 

This childhood condition is not simply being moody. It is a new diagnosis and appeared in DSM-5 in 2013 only. To be diagnosed with this mental ailment, the child has to suffer from the symptoms of the illness for at least 12 months.

2. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

The diagnosis is made on the presence of mood swings and other affective disturbances in the week before the first onset of menstruation. 

Then, the resolution of symptoms occurs after the onset. The young girl suffers from anger, irritability, crying spells, anxiousness, hopelessness, depressed mood, and unexplained sad feelings. A minimum of 5 symptoms should be present in the patient for at least a week or more to be officially considered as a disorder.

The symptoms will interfere with school work, relationships, and overall social well-being.

Symptoms of Mood Disorders

As mood disorders include a number of psychiatric illnesses, the symptoms vary according to the illness. In general, all mood disorders typically show symptoms that affect the person’s mood, feelings, and general adjustment to day-to-day functioning.

 The symptoms affect sleep patterns, eating habits, and energy levels as well. In bipolar disorders, racing thoughts, and poor ability to decision-making is also obvious. Mood disorders can impact the overall thinking abilities of the person along with mood states.

Depression signs

In general, the chief signs of depression are as follows:

  • Sad feelings most of the time for many days at a stretch
  • Lack of energy to do daily activities
  • Sluggish and sloth feelings
  • Feeling hopeless 
  • Lack of self-worth
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Either sleeping too much or very less
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Eating too much
  • Poor concentration
  • Blunted affect
  • Poor decision-making ability
  • Frequent somatic disturbances such as headaches, body aches, stomach upset
  • Sensitive to rejection
  • Planning of death or wishes to die comes very often
  • Excessive guilt
  • The empty and sad mood that does not get better

Mania episodes – signs

 The mania symptoms or hypomanic tendencies are as follows:

  • Extreme energy
  • Feeling extremely happy and over the moon 
  • Rapid speech and movements
  • Irritability and mental restlessness
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Trying to do many things at a time
  • Grandiose feelings or inflated sense of self
  • Racing thoughts
  • Lack of adequate sleep
  •  Feelings of delusion of grandeur
  • Seeing others who are not there – hallucinations
  • Delusions of persecution
  • Inability to take care of oneself

Causes of Mood Disorders

The single cause of mood disorders is not known. Clinical studies have indicated the role of genetics and environmental factors in the causation of the illness. Moreover, imbalances in brain chemicals can also lead to the symptoms of either depression or bipolar disorder.

Life events and stress can also lead to a depressed mood. Anyone can feel sad when stress triggers are intense and the person’s adaptive mechanism seems to break off. However, depressive symptoms are abnormal.

The magnitude of sad feelings is so grave that the person falls into guilt and shame feelings as well. At times, it leads to suicidal ideation as well.

 Some of the risk factors or causes of mood disorders are as follows:

  • The family history of patients with bipolar and clinical depression has revealed that first-degree relatives are prone to the same depressive symptoms. 
  • Loss of job and financial distress can cause prolonged depression
  • Loneliness and social isolation can cause depressive symptoms
  • Traumatic life events such as a death in the family, breakups, and loss of a child can be related to a diagnosis of depression
  • Problems of hypothyroidism can lead to sad feelings
  • Children and teens, or adults with parents of mood ailments can also develop mood disturbances later in life. So, the family connection is very strong. Even twin studies of depression have revealed higher prevalence rates for identical twins. 
  • Females are twice more prone to depression than men. It can be a chronic illness for women as well.
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain are also responsible for mood disorders but it is a medically complex process that gets into the real-time diagnosis of major depression.

Mood Disorder Diagnosis

As mood disorder is a serious illness, we need a certified psychiatrist to diagnose the problem. A complete family history and psychiatric evaluation of the patient’s mental health are done before the official diagnosis is made. 

The diagnostic criteria given in DSM-5 are used for the confirmation and differential diagnosis of bipolar and major depression with other associated conditions that affect mood and emotions. Many patients with major depression may not report low mood, sadness, or lack of energy in their initial clinic visits. However, they will come to the doctor with symptoms of fatigue, sleepiness, loss of appetite, etc.

The clinician or psychiatrist will look for signs of depression by asking the patient’s family members about their mental health over a certain period of time. The actual diagnosis of mood disorder depends upon the tenure for which the person is suffering. 

All the different types of mood disorders discussed in the previous section will have different diagnostic criteria, so the doctor will do a thorough mental status examination and review of the symptoms for the actual diagnosis.

Diagnostic criteria for Major Depression

To be diagnosed with major depression, the person should have 5 or more of the following symptoms. The symptoms should be present for at least two weeks or more in a persistent way to be considered for a clinical diagnosis.

  • Depressed mood all the time, most of the days
  • Feelings of sadness that don’t get better
  • Diminished interest in daily activities most of the days or every day during the last 2 weeks or more.
  •  Weight changes, loss in weight even when no dieting is going on.
  • Slowing down of thought, less physical activity, subjective feelings of restlessness, and low feelings.
  • Fatigue to be seen almost every day
  • Thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, attempts for suicide. Plans for suicide are to be considered for depressive symptoms as well.

The symptoms should be distressing for the patient and they should interfere with daily life functioning. Moreover, self-harming tendencies can be dangerous for the patient. All these factors need to be considered before the diagnosis of depression is done.

Diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorders

 To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the patient should have experienced at least one episode of full-blown mania or low-grade hypomania. The elevated mood and high energy levels should have persisted for at least a week, either most days or every day.

During this time, three or more of the following symptoms should be present:

  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Reduced sleep
  • Lots of distraction
  • Racing thoughts
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Engaging in activities that are risk-taking 

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder shows signs of major depression that are already discussed before. As per DSM 5 specifications, the person must experience at least 5 symptoms of depression for at least two weeks, most of the days, or every day.

Depression and its cyclic nature

Most mood disorders have a cyclic nature. It means the patient may feel better for a certain period of time after taking the treatment, but the symptoms can again come back later on. 

In bipolar disorders, the depression alternating hypomania episodes also come back in cycles. The remission period can reverse to active symptoms all of a sudden. In depressive patients, the lack of energy in doing daily tasks leads to neglecting work-life commitments. So, there are chances of losing a job or getting into a financial crisis. 

Sometimes this reduction in activities leads to relationship issues that can again trigger loneliness and sadness. Neglecting responsibilities can lead to guilt feelings. Thus, the symptoms are also in a circle and one symptom is directly related to the other.

It is unlikely that the depressive disorders will go away on their own. It requires treatment and that too a prolonged and sustained one for maximum benefits for the patient.

Treatment for Mood Disorders

It is vital that the patient seeks treatment for his/her mood disorder because it’s unlikely to subside all by itself. The disorder can also take a worse turn in a few weeks or months’ time. 

It is important for the caregivers of the sufferer to keep a note of the person’s mood every day and whether the mood variations are interfering with everyday functioning, self-care, job responsibilities, etc.

Some of the best treatment practices for mood disorders are as follows:

1. Medications

For mood disorders, your doctor usually prescribes medicines that will be aimed at increasing the levels of serotonin or norepinephrine. For depression, antidepressants are given to raise neurotransmitter levels. 

These medications will improve the sleep quality of the patient. Moreover, these drugs will also improve mood and keep a check on the normal energy levels of the patient. Sometimes, your doctor can also prescribe mood stabilizers to balance your mood states. There will be no emotional highs and lows.

At times, doctors may also prescribe antipsychotic drugs to alleviate bipolar symptoms. Mania and mixed episodes of mood disorders can be controlled in good ways by these antipsychotic drugs

Note: Always consume medication under the supervision of a certified psychiatrist. Many medications do have side effects that need to be checked before having these drugs.

2. Psychotherapy

Mood disorders can be treated well with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Cognitive behavior therapy is used to identify faulty thought patterns and help patients understand their inner workings even better. 

At times, interpersonal therapy with caregivers at home, or with friends and extended family of the patient is done to create happy feelings.

The purpose of CBT is to help patients challenge their negative thoughts, alter them, and let go of a certain amount of guilt and pain that were held as emotional baggage for a long time. In doing so, the patient is also able to see things from different perspectives and allowing for an emotional healing process.

Challenging and overcoming unhelpful thinking styles helps in recovery for depression patients. Research findings have explained the efficacy of CBT in treating depression

3. Brain stimulation process

This therapy is primarily used to cure major depression where antidepressants and psychotherapy are not working enough and patients are still showing signs of moderate to severe depression. At times, this therapy is also known as electroconvulsive therapy. 

4. Light therapy

This type of therapy is used for patients suffering from a seasonal affective disorder or SAD. The method has been useful to overcome their depressive symptoms. The procedure uses an artificial light that can substitute natural sunlight and help in improving the person’s mood. It should be undertaken for about 20 to 60 minutes in the mornings to avail of maximum benefits.

5. Lifestyle changes

There are some lifestyle changes that mood disorder patients can use in their daily life to improve their mood quality and bring a feel-good factor to their lives. 

These are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Along with medication and psychotherapy, these self-help strategies are equally good and beneficial to overcome symptoms of a mood disorder.

  • Have a consistent sleep and wake cycle to feel energized.
  • Meditation can help reduce the impact of daily stress triggers at home and workplaces
  • Using a mood diary and note down daily mood swings, either sadness or elation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse is not recommended at all
  • Regular exercise, and a proper diet as all good 
  • A support network is always  a plus point to reduce depression symptoms 

Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’

Living with a mental health problem is not an easy task, thus, if you think that you or your close network people are suffering from signs of depression, euphoria, or both; you can consult a mental health professional at the earliest to get treated faster. 

Mood disorders are no exception. The earlier the treatment starts, the prognosis only gets better. Managing the symptoms as they appear will help the patient live normal lives. 

The key areas of their life, work, and relationships will be impacted in lesser ways. There is always hope but the treatment plan should be systematic and timely for the overall improvement in quality of life.

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