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Understanding Mood Disorders

What are the different types of mood disorders?

  • Major depression – Less interest in usual activities, feeling sad or hopeless, or other symptoms lasting longer than two weeks may indicate depression.
  • Dysthymia – This chronic, low-grade depressed or irritable mood lasts for two years.
  • Bipolar type disorder – Moods fluctuate with patterns of elevated, depressed moods or mania. Behaviors can be, at times, risky or impulsive.
  • Mood disorder related to another health condition – Many medical illnesses, treatments, injuries, infections, or chronic illnesses can trigger symptoms of depression.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder – These symptoms of depression are due to the effects of medicines, drug abuse, alcohol, exposure to toxins, or other treatment.

What are symptoms of mood disorders?

Symptoms can be different depending on the age or type of mood disorder. Common symptoms are:

  • Ongoing sadness, anxiety, or “empty” mood
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling inadequate or worthless
  • Excessive guilt
  • Loss of interest in usual activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Relationship problems
  • Over or under sleeping
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Decreased energy
  • Trouble concentrating or inability to make decisions
  • Extreme sensitivity to failure or rejection
  • Irritability, hostility, or aggression
  • Frequent physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches, tiredness)
  • Running away or threats of running away from home
  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, statements like “I would be better off dead” or self-injurious behavior (cutting, burning, excessive picking or scratching of skin areas)
  • Increased use of alcohol, cannabis, food, or risky behaviors

How are mood disorders diagnosed?

Mood disorders are real. A primary care physician, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or other mental health professional can diagnose mood disorders through complete medical and psychiatric evaluations by appropriate providers.

How are mood disorders treated?

Mood disorders can be often treated successfully. Some treatments may involve:

  • Antidepressant and mood stabilizing medications – Outcomes are more successful when combined with some form of therapy.
  • Psychotherapy – Cognitive behavioral (CBT) interpersonal, skill building, which may include DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), psychoeducation, family therapy, or group therapy can be helpful.

Myths about mood disorders

  • Mood disorders are just in a person’s head. Mood disorders are real medical problems where changes in brain chemistry can affect all parts of a person’s life (sleep, appetite, concentration, decision-making, and mood).
  • Taking medicine means you’re weak or you will “become a zombie.” Medicine has some side effects, but when prescribed by a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or family practitioner, side effects usually go away.
  • Mood disorders don’t go away. Sometimes mood disorders are the result of a situational life event and go away after treatment. Sometimes a genetic connection is learned, and a person decides to remain on medicine for a longer period of time.
  • Medicine and therapy are the only treatment. Mood disorders can respond to changes in life style, supplements, and alternative therapies which may include meditation, yoga, acupressure, homeopathic remedies, aromatherapy, biofeedback, nutritional therapy, and reflexology.

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