Mood Disorders

A mood disorder describes a disruption or disturbance in affect or disposition (mood). Mood disorders include the diagnoses of depression, bipolar disorder, grief reactions, seasonal affective disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and dysthymic disorder. Mood disorder is a general term and not a specific diagnosis.

Causes of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders have a strong genetic basis, with genes now identified which are associated with different forms of depression and bipolar disorder. Improper mood regulation may originate in the brain resulting from abnormal amounts of neurotransmitter substances such as serotonin, glutamate or GABA.

A person’s temperament may predispose them to a mood disorder. Temperament affects how a person reacts to life events and frames things that happen in a positive or negative way. Persons with Seasonal Affective Disorder have problems with melatonin secretion, and problems with an out-of-sync Circadian Rhythm (body clock).

Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Symptoms of a mood disorder include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, restlessness, and sadness during depressive episodes. There is often loss of interest in daily activities, an inability to enjoy social interactions, hobbies, activities and even sex. Fatigue and insomnia may follow these feelings, leading to increased irritability. Eating problems may arise, manifesting as significant weight loss or gain. Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering things, as well as somatic symptoms such as pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems may also occur.

Mood disorders can also involve dramatic rises in mood, with feelings of elation, increased energy, and a decreased need for sleep. A person experiencing a manic episode will often have racing thoughts, rapid and pressured speech, and poor judgment and planning.

Treatments for Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are chronic illnesses that can be effectively managed with psychological treatment and medication. Research shows that medication, coupled with effective psychotherapy, sleep and stress management, and psycho-education, can significantly improve the wellness of someone with a mood disorder.