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What Are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders are a category of illnesses that describe a serious change in mood. Illness under mood disorders include: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, cyclothymia, and SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

How Common Are Mood Disorders?

About 20% of the U.S. population reports at least one depressive symptom in a given month, and 12% report two or more in a year.

Bipolar disorder is less common, occurring at a rate of 1% in the general population, but some believe the diagnosis is often overlooked because manic symptoms are rarely reported as an illness.

The Relationship Between Other Disorders & Mood Disorders

Depression is a common feature of mental illness, whatever its nature and origin. A person with a history of any serious mental health disorder has almost as high a chance of developing major depression as someone who has had major depression alone in the past.

Alcohol, Substance Abuse and Depression

Alcoholism and other forms of drug dependence are also related to depression. Dual diagnosis - substance abuse and another mental health disorder is an increasingly serious psychiatric concern. Whether drug abuse causes depression, depression leads to drug abuse, or both have a common cause, a vicious spiral ensues when addicts use the drugs to relieve symptoms the drugs have caused.

People with serious mood disorders also have twice the average rate of nicotine addiction, and many become depressed when they try to stop smoking.

Personality and Mood Disorders

People are more easily demoralized by depression and slower to recover if they are withdrawn and unreasonably self-critical or irritable, impulsive, and hypersensitive to loss.

Most people with major depression also show some signs of anxiety, and 15-30% have panic attacks. As a biological mechanism for coping with danger, anxiety creates a need for help or protection that may give way to despair if it is disappointed. Chronically anxious people may also medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs that can cause depression.

Depression and Physical Illness

Depression is associated with physical illness as well. Some 25% of hospitalized medical patients have noticeable depressive symptoms and about 5% are suffering from major depression. Depression can mimic medical illness and any illness feels worse to someone suffering from depression.

Depression is a real, common and treatable. Basic Facts About Depression:

  • Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting 6.7% (more than 16 million) of American adults each year.
  • Depression causes people to lose pleasure from daily life, can complicate other medical conditions, and can even be serious enough to lead to suicide.
  • Depression can occur to anyone, at any age, and to people of any race or ethnic group. Depression is never a "normal" part of life, no matter what your age, gender or health situation.
  • Too many people resist treatment because they believe depression isn't serious, that they can treat it themselves or that it is a personal weakness rather than a serious medical illness.

What Are the Symptoms of Clinical Depression?

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

What Are the Causes of Clinical Depression?

Many things can contribute to clinical depression. For some people, a number of factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness. Oftentimes, people become depressed for no apparent reason.

Biological - People with depression may have too little or too much of certain brain chemicals, called "neurotransmitters." Changes in these brain chemicals may cause or contribute to depression.

Cognitive - People with negative thinking patterns and low self-esteem are more likely to develop clinical depression.

Gender - More women experience depression than men. While the reasons for this are still unclear, they may include the hormonal changes women go through during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.

Co-occurrence - Depression is more likely to occur along with certain illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Multiple Sclerosis and hormonal disorders.

Medications - Side effects of some medications can bring about depression.

Genetic - A family history of depression increases the risk for developing the illness. Some studies also suggest that a combination of genes and environmental factors work together to increase risk for depression.

Situational-Difficult life events, including divorce, financial problems or the death of a loved one can contribute to depression.

What Are the Different Kinds of Depression?

Depressive Disorders are a category of mood disorders that involve extended periods of feeling extremely low and disrupt a person’s ability to enjoy life. Some of the most common Depressive Disorders include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (Clinical Depression); a mental health condition characterized by an inescapable and ongoing low mood often accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in activities that a person used to find enjoyable.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder; refers to a longer lasting form of depression.
  • Post-Partum Depression; depression that starts after childbirth and lasts at least two weeks, up to a year.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder; a severe form of PMS that is diagnosed when a woman experiences severe symptoms of depression, tension, and irritability in the week prior to menstruation.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder; a mood disorder involving symptoms of depression associated with varying levels of sunlight during fall and winter months which subsides during spring and summer.

Depression is also a feature of Bipolar disorder, see below.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

  • Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood and energy. While everyone experiences ups and downs, the severe shifts that happen in bipolar disorder can have a serious impact on a person’s life.
  • More than 3.3 million American adults (1.7%) suffer from bipolar disorder in a given year. An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.
  • Contrary to how it is sometimes used in conversation, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder does not mean a person is highly emotional but rather refers to someone who experiences extended periods of mood and energy that are excessively high and or/irritable to sad and hopeless, with periods of normal mood in between.
  • It typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life.
  • Bipolar disorder can be extremely distressing and disruptive for those who have this disease, their spouses, family members, friends, and employers. Although there is no known cure, bipolar disorder is treatable, and recovery is possible.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. It causes a person to have a high level of energy, unrealistically expansive thoughts or ideas, and impulsive or reckless behavior. These symptoms may feel good to a person, which may lead to denial that there is a problem.

Another reason bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms may appear to be part of another illness or attributed to other problems such as substance abuse, poor school performance, or trouble in the workplace.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Although a specific genetic link to bipolar disorder has not been pinpointed, research shows that bipolar disorder tends to run in families.

People may inherit a tendency to develop the illness, which can then be triggered by environmental factors such as distressing life events.

Brain development, structure and chemicals called neurotransmitters, which act as messengers between nerve cells, are also thought to play a role in the development of bipolar disorder.