A mood disorder is a mental health problem that primarily affects a person’s emotional state. Mood disorders consist of long periods of excessive sadness (depression), excessive joyousness (mania), or both. Depression and mania represent the two extremes, or poles, of mood disorders.
It is normal for someone’s mood to change, depending on the situation. Sadness and joy (elation) are part of everyday life. Sadness is a universal response to defeat, disappointment, and other discouraging situations. Joy is a universal response to success, achievement, and other encouraging situations. Grief, a form of sadness, is considered a normal emotional response to a loss. Bereavement refers specifically to the emotional response to death of a loved one. However, to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, symptoms must be present for several weeks or longer. Mood disorders can cause changes in your behavior and can affect your ability to deal with routine activities, such as work or school.
Having a mood disorder, particularly one that involves depression, increases the risk of other problems, such as inability to do daily activities and maintain relationships, loss of appetite, extreme anxiety, and alcohol use disorder. As many as 15% of people with untreated depression end their life by suicide.
A mood disorder is diagnosed when sadness or elation is overly intense and persistent, is accompanied by a requisite number of other mood disorder symptoms, and significantly impairs the person's capacity to function. In such cases, intense sadness is termed depression, and intense elation is termed mania. Depressive disorders are characterized by depression; bipolar disorders are characterized by varying combinations of depression and mania.
What causes mood disorders?
There is no clear cause of mood disorders. Healthcare providers think they are a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. There may be several risk factors, depending on the type of the disorder. Various genetic, biological, environmental, and other factors have been associated with mood disorders.
Risk factors include:
- Family history
- Previous diagnosis of a mood disorder
- Trauma, stress or major life changes in the case of depression
- Physical illness or use of certain medications. Depression has been linked to major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and heart disease.
- Brain structure and function in the case of bipolar disorder
What are the symptoms of common mood disorders?
Symptoms depend on the type of mood disorder that is present.
Symptoms of major depression may include:
- Feeling sad most of the time or nearly every day
- Lack of energy or feeling sluggish
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Gaining weight or losing weight
- Loss of interest in activities that formerly brought enjoyment
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Frequent thoughts about death or suicide
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
Symptoms of bipolar disorder may include both depression and mania. Symptoms of hypomanic or manic episodes include:
- Feeling extremely energized or elated
- Rapid speech or movement
- Agitation, restlessness, or irritability
- Risk-taking behaviour, such as spending too much money or driving recklessly
- Unusual increase in activity or trying to do too many things at once
- Racing thoughts
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Feeling jumpy or on edge for no apparent reason
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.
How are mood disorders treated?
Mood disorders can often be treated with success. Treatment may include:
- Antidepressant and mood stabilizing medicines—especially when combined with psychotherapy have shown to work very well in the treatment of depression
- Psychotherapy—most often cognitive-behavioral and/or interpersonal therapy. This therapy is focused on changing the person’s distorted views of himself or herself and the environment around him or her. It also helps to improve interpersonal relationship skills, and identifying stressors in the environment and how to avoid them
- Other therapies, Some people look to herbs and natural remedies to find relief from their symptoms. Many of these remedies have been used medicinally for centuries as folk and alternative treatments. Today, many herbs are marketed as mood boosters for people who experience chronic feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
In the blog titled “7 herbs and supplements to manage mood disorders”, we have discussed some of the natural supplements that are used to treat mood disorders.