Mood disorders


Specialty of Psychiatry

What are mood disorders?

There are several types of mood disorder, but all are loosely defined by the fact that your general mood or emotional state is inconsistent and affects your ability to function properly. The following are well known mood disorders.

  • Bipolar disorder – people experience episodes of depression and episodes of mania.
  • Major depressive disorder – prolonged and persistent episodes of extreme sadness.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – changes in mood that happen during the premenstrual phase of menstruation that goes away with the onset of menses.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) – a chronic form of depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that is linked to the winter season in the northern and southern latitudes when daylight hours are at their fewest.
  • Cyclothymic disorder – similar to bipolar disorder, but the ups and downs are less extreme.

Symptoms of mood disorders:

Symptoms of depression and depressive episodes may include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Low self-esteem
  • Little motivation
  • Feeling anxious
  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Symptoms of mania can include:

  • Extreme happiness and elation
  • Lots of energy
  • Being easily distracted
  • Being easily irritated
  • Having delusional thoughts, hallucinations or illogical thoughts
  • Not eating
  • Having little sleep
  • Feeling self-important
  • Talking quickly

How mood disorders are diagnosed:

If you visit your GP and they think you may be suffering from a mood disorder, you will be referred for a specialist assessment by a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist will ask you questions about your mood and changes experienced. You may be given a questionnaire as well. A thorough medical history will be taken as well.

What are the causes of mood disorders?

There are no certain or definitive causes of mood disorders, however, it is thought to be due to a combination of physical, environmental and social factors. Chemical imbalances are sometimes cited as a cause of mood disorders, as well as someone’s genetic predisposition to such conditions and whether they run in their family. Emotional and social triggers can also cause mood disorders. Triggers can include the breakdown of a relationship, the loss of a job or loved one or physical, sexual or emotion abuse.

Treatments for mood disorders:

Treatment will depend on the type of mood disorder you are diagnosed with, but might consist of, depending on your condition:

  • Self-help groups
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Counselling
  • Antidepressant medication
  • Lifestyle measures

Which type of specialist treats mood disorders?

A psychiatrist or psychologist would treat people with mood disorders.

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