Mood disorders can affect anyone of any age, gender, race, and socioeconomic group. They are complex conditions that involve changes in feelings, behavior, and thinking. These emotional disturbances can lead to physical and social problems and, in some cases, can even be life-threatening.
Mood disorders can be divided into two broad categories: unipolar and bipolar. Unipolar disorders involve feelings of persistent depression and/or anxiety. Bipolar disorders involve shifts in mood from depression to mania or the opposite direction. There is often overlap in these two categories, and individuals may have symptoms of both.
When thinking about the numerous mood disorders, it is important to consider the list of disorders below, along with their respective definitions:
Major Depressive Disorder: Major depressive disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by a prolonged period of persistent feelings of hopelessness and despair, as well as loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. It can be accompanied by impaired thinking, reduced energy, and changes in behavior.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (formerly Dysthymia): Persistent depressive disorder is a form of depression that may be present most of the time for an extended period of at least two years. Symptoms of this disorder include a persistently depressed mood, low self-esteem, fatigue, difficulties with sleep, and decreased appetite.
Bipolar I Disorder: Bipolar I disorder is characterized by alternating episodes of extreme elevated mood, known as mania, and major depression, as well as episodes of normal mood. During manic episodes, individuals may experience racing thoughts and excessive energy and become impulsive, often taking on risky behaviors.
Bipolar II Disorder: Bipolar II disorder is similar to bipolar I disorder but it does not include manic episodes. Instead, individuals experience a combination of major depression and hypomania. Hypomania is milder than mania, and involves feelings of elation and increased energy.
Cyclothymic Disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is a milder form of bipolar disorder. It involves recurrent episodes of hypomania and mild depression that occur over at least a two-year period.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome in which individuals experience sudden and sustained increases in depression and irritability, as well as physical symptoms such as abdominal bloating and cramps.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression most commonly characterized by episodes of persistent sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue that begin in the fall and dissipate in the spring. It is usually associated with the lack of sunlight.
Substance/Medication-Induced Mood Disorders: Substance/medication-induced mood disorders occur as a result of substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs, and/or certain medications (e.g., steroid use). These mood disorders involve changes in affect, cognition, and/or behavior that can resemble major depression or bipolar disorder.
Additionally, a variety of other mood disorders may arise in certain contexts or settings. Examples include postpartum depression, which occurs in women after pregnancy or birth, and post traumatic stress disorder, which is triggered by a traumatic experience.
Understanding the various forms of mood disorders is essential to recognizing and managing these emotional challenges. It is important to take the time to explore the list of disorders above and to consider the symptoms that overlap in order to seek appropriate support and treatment. A mental health provider can be a useful resource in understanding the complexities of mood disorders and in identifying the best course of action for managing them.