People tell you that your emotions run hot to cold, that you get angry quickly for no apparent reason, and that you’re not much fun. You’re irritable and generally unhappy and have been for months. What’s going on? You could be experiencing a mood disorder.
What Are Mood Disorders?
If you experience a mood disorder, your overall emotional wellness or mood is distorted or unpredictable and can hinder your ability to function. You may be incredibly sad, irritable, unfilled, or you may experience periods of depression rotating with being extremely happy.
According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, anxiety disorders can also influence your moods and often happen along with depression. Mood disorders can boost your risk of suicide, but they can be treated.
Types of Mood Disorders
There are many kinds of mood disorders you could experience. Many have symptoms that overlap with other mental health conditions, making it hard to diagnose and form a treatment plan. Some mood disorders to be aware of include:
Depression is a widespread mental disorder. It’s characterized by grief or sadness as a common response to a trauma or crisis, like the death of a spouse or close relative, losing your job, or a serious illness. But suppose you report that depression continues unabated even though stressful events have ended or there isn’t any apparent cause. In that case, a medical provider will likely classify your condition as major or clinical depression.
Though less widespread than depression, bipolar disorder is another mood disorder healthcare professionals usually treat. It involves intense mood swings between extreme lows and highs, with the mood swings affecting daily life and strongly influencing your actions.
Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that happens during certain seasons. It usually begins in the late fall or early winter and persists until spring or summer. The seasonal affective disorder may begin during the late spring or summer months less frequently.
Dysthymia is a long-term, low-grade, depressed, or short-tempered mood that persists for two or more years.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is known for its mood changes and irritability that happen during a woman’s premenstrual phase of her cycle and subsides with the beginning of menses.
Intermittent explosive disorder is less well known. It’s a mood disorder known for episodes of undeserved anger, where you fly into a rage – often for no apparent reason. If you have an intermittent explosive disorder, your behavioral outbursts don’t match the situation.
Origins of Mood Disorders
Many factors contribute to mood disorders. A chemical imbalance probably causes them in the brain, but they also can be triggered by accumulated stress and may have a genetic or inherited component. Anyone with a biological relative who had a mood disorder can be at greater risk of also being affected by a mood disorder.
Occasional depression or sadness is a normal part of life, but symptoms of mood disorders are more powerful and last longer. When left unchecked, they can be harder to control than average feelings of sadness. It’s well known that trauma and stress may reveal or worsen feelings of depression or sadness – making a recovery exceedingly difficult.
Specific things which may cause depression
- Employment issues
- A failed marriage or relationship
- Personal loss
- Financial setbacks
Each of these makes it difficult to cope with additional pressure. The risk of depression may be gender-based, as women are nearly twice as likely as men to get it.
Risk factors may include:
- You have a family history of depression, mood disorders, or another mental illness.
- You received a prior diagnosis of a mood disorder.
- Ongoing trauma or anxiety.
- Depression risk may be greater based on a physical illness you might have or the use of certain medications. It’s linked to major illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, and heart disease.
- People who are depressed often show differences in brain structure and function, especially in the case of bipolar disorder.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you are experiencing a mood disorder, the diagnosis means symptoms are present for two or more weeks and significantly disrupt everyday life. Diagnosis normally involves:
- A physical examination
- A mental health assessment
- Comparing your symptoms to criteria for mood disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Mood disorders can be treated, often with psychotherapy, self-help strategies, diet and lifestyle changes, certain medicine, and even ketamine therapy. Before choosing a treatment, be sure to ask your healthcare provider about the potential risks and benefits.