Editor: Oluseyi Elizabeth Odudimu
What is a mood disorder?
Mood Disorders are mental health conditions that predominantly influence the emotional state. It is also known as an affective disorder with the experience of long periods of intense happiness or sadness (mania) and may affect the general emotional state in many cases.
Mood Disorder can lead to changes in behaviour and interferes with an individual ability to function physically and socially and also impact daily routine activities.
In everyday life, we experience sadness, joy and other circumstances that cause more continuous and disabling depression. These feelings differ from the depression and mania that characterize mood disorders. It is normal to feel depressed when we encounter emotionally distressing events such as serious illness, the death of a loved one, divorce, defeat, disappointment and catastrophe. Those are natural responses and do not describe a disorder. They are temporary feelings that will only last for a certain period and do not substantially interfere with our ability to perform adequately.
Two Major Mood Disorders
Depression and bipolar disorder are the two common mood disorders, but the combination of anxiety disorders and depressive disorders can also affect mood swings. Depressive mood disorders increase the risk of additional concerns, such as severe anxiety, loss of appetite, and inability to keep long-time relationships and engage in daily activities. Bipolar mood disorder is associated with a higher frequency of attempted suicide than most other psychiatric disorders.
Depression and its subtypes
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. Major or clinical depression is a mood disorder with feelings of helplessness or sadness that cause difficulty with thinking, memory, eating and sleeping. The condition can also last for weeks or months and cause an individual to lose pleasure in things they enjoy before the onset of the disorder.
Types of depression include:
- Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)— This is a chronic form of depression with ongoing periods of intense sadness, which may last for one year in children and teens and two years in adults. The symptoms may decrease periodically for two subsequent months and becomes more severe after those periods.
- Depression with psychosis) — A person with psychotic depression may have a combination of severe depression and psychotic episodes, such as delusions (thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true) or hallucinations (hearing voices feeling, smelling, seeing or tasting things that are not existing). Individuals with psychotic depression have an increased risk of attempting suicide.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — This is a form of depression often associated with certain seasons of the year and disappears at the end of the season. SAD episodes mostly begin in the late autumn or early winter and lessen during spring or summer. The symptoms correspond with those of major depression.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder — This type of depression comes with mood changes and irritability. It usually occurs during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle and goes away with the onset of menses.
- Postpartum depression (peripartum depression)— This is a type of depression that happens to women who experience hormonal, physical, emotional, financial and social changes after childbirth. Baby blues affect between 50% and 75% of women after childbirth. The symptoms of postpartum depression include severe mood swings, frequent crying spells, and intense sadness or loneliness. Certain factors such as a personal or family history of depression, postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), ambivalence about the pregnancy, marital or relationship conﬂict, Pregnancy complications like health conditions, difficult delivery or premature birth, younger mother or a single parent and having a baby with special needs or a baby who cries a lot have a high increase risk for postpartum depression. The two common symptoms are a lack of interest in your baby or thoughts of hurting the baby.
- Depression related to medical illness — People with a medical condition may have to deal with a persistent depressed mood and significant loss of pleasure in most enjoyable activities.
- Depression induced by substance use or medication ― People with a history of substance abuse or excessive intake of medication have an increased risk of developing this type of depression.
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)― This particular disorder affects children and adolescents. It is a chronic, severe and ongoing irritability out of proportion to the crisis and inconsistent with the child’s developmental age.
Symptoms of Depressive mood disorders
The common depressive symptoms include:
- Feels sad and hopeless for most of the day
- A lack of energy or loss of motivation
- Feeling worthless or unproductive.
- Loss of interest in activities they formerly enjoyed
- Continuous thoughts of death or suicide ideation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Sleeping too much or not getting enough.
- Loss of appetite or overeating.
- Getting through the day feels almost impossible.
- Have sudden mood changes.
- Have crying spells.
- Feel Overwhelmed
- Crying for no reason or excessively.
- Thoughts of suicide or wish to die
Bipolar disorder and its subtypes
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves abnormal mood changes with episodes of mania or hypomania. These are far beyond the emotional ups and downs that we all experience in our daily life.
The four basic types of bipolar disorder include:
Bipolar I disorder (Mixed) — you have episodes of depression alternating with both mania and hypomania episodes. People with bipolar I disorder will experience one or more episodes of mania, and may not have an episode of depression.
Bipolar II disorder (Hypomanic)— you have very high mood cycles of depression similar to that of bipolar I, but a less severe form of mania. A person with bipolar II will experience hypomania but will be able to handle daily responsibilities.
Cyclothymic disorder (High or manic) — Feel extremely happy and elated and become overactive. You may develop very majestic, delusional beliefs about yourself and your capacities.
Unspecified bipolar disorder (Low or depressive) — You may feel intensely low, depressed and hopeless or experience significant abnormal mood changes. But the symptoms of this unspecified bipolar disorder cannot be categorised under any of the criteria for the other three types of bipolar disorder.
The common symptoms of hypomanic or manic episodes include:
- Feeling extremely energized or elated.
- Rapid speech or movement.
- Agitation, restlessness or irritability.
- Risk-taking behaviour, such as spending more money than usual or driving recklessly.
- Racing thoughts.
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping.
What causes depressive mood disorders and bipolar disorder?
Scientists could not ascertain the causes of mood disorders. However, research associated biological, genetic and environmental factors with both disorders.
Biological factors: the amygdala and orbit frontal cortex are the brain areas responsible for controlling our feelings and emotions. Brain imaging tests show that people with mood disorders have an enlarged amygdala. Mood disorders are also associated with low levels of serotonin, the natural hormone that controls human emotions and feelings of well-being.
Genetic factors: mood disorders are also associated with genetics or inherited because most people with a strong family history of a mood disorder are more likely to develop mood disorders.
Environmental factors: People with experience of childhood abuse and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease have a high risk of developing mood disorders later on in life. A traumatic life event can also trigger mood disorder.
How is mood disorder diagnosed?
There are no tests for a mood disorder. However, honest discussions with mental health professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists will help analyse your symptoms to diagnose you. You may also undergo blood or urine tests to rule out other causes.
The criteria in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are usually used to make diagnoses of mood disorders. Specifically, a mood disorder is diagnosed when sadness, elation, anger or other emotions such as: Overly intense and persistent accompanied by other mood disorder symptoms, such as sleep changes or activity level changes which significantly impair an individual capacity to function.
How is mood disorder treated?
Treatment for mood disorders usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medicines.
Counselling or Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help and is often used to manage Mood Disorder and Bipolar mood swings. A therapist or psychologist will help you examine your thoughts and emotions and how they affect your actions. CBT can help you unlearn negative thoughts and develop more positive thinking.
Antidepressants are prescription drugs that can relieve depression. There are numerous various kinds of medications for the treatment of mood disorders. The most typically used are two medication are:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
You may be required to take the medication for more than a month or longer before you feel a difference. It is advisable to keep taking it even if you notice any side effects and ensure you talk to your doctor when you feel much better.
How can I prevent persistent depressive disorder?
You may not be able to prevent depression, but a change of lifestyle and precise practices can make it less severe:
- Eat a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods.
- Exercise at least three times a week.
- Restrict alcohol and avoid recreational drugs.
- Take prescribed medications correctly and discuss any possible side effects with your doctor.
- Watch for any changes in your mood and talk to your healthcare provider about them.
What do I need to do if I have a Mood Disorder?
Mood disorder is unlikely to go away naturally and may get severe over time. Suicidal thoughts and behaviour are also prevalent with some Mood disorders. Get help immediately if you:
- Think you may harm yourself or be at risk of suicide.
- Feel like your emotions are interfering with your work, relationships, social activities or other parts of your life
- Have trouble with drinking or drugs
- Have suicidal thoughts or behaviours
If you seek professional help as soon as you notice the symptoms, it may be easier to treat early on. Mental health professionals will help you to develop essential coping strategies for a mood disorder. Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community. Reach out to a close friend or loved one or contact a suicide hotline in Nigeria, using the Lifeline Chat on the SMIF website. Services are free and confidential.
How can support a loved one who shows signs of Mood Disorder?
People with psychosis are often oblivious to their thoughts and unnatural attitude. Friends, relatives and religious members are expected to seek help for them.
If your loved one shows signs of Mood Disorder, have an open and honest discussion with the person about your concerns regarding their health. It may be difficult to convince someone to get professional care, but you can encourage and support them. You can also suggest a qualified mental health professional, make an appointment and accompany them to the psychiatric hospital.
If your loved one has done self-harm or is contemplating doing so, take the person to the hospital or call for emergency help. Suicidal thinking does not get better on its own — so help them get help.
Quiz: Test your status
Did you think you have a mood disorder? Self-diagnose yourself by answering the following questions:
- Do you feel sad a lot?
- Are there particular reasons you feel down?
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Are you taking any medications?
- How long have you had these symptoms?
- Are the symptoms there every time, or do they come and go?
Is your answer to those questions positive? Click the WhatsApp chat icon to talk to a professional.