Mood disorders encompass a wide array of mood issues, such as major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder. Approximately 20.9 million American adults suffer from these disorders.
What Are the Types of Mood Disorders?
Major depression is the most common mood disorder. This debilitating illness causes mental anguish and physical ailments. It often prevents normal daily function. While some people with depression may experience only one episode of major depression in a lifetime, most endure multiple episodes.
Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is a milder form of depression. It may not hinder a person’s ability to function in daily life.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is less common. Even so, it affects about 5.7 million American adults. Bipolar disorder is a combination of extreme elation, which is known as mania, and depression.
Depressive Disorders and Major Depressive Disorder
Dysthymia is diagnosed when a person suffers from depression for two or more years. Although it is not as debilitating as major depression, dysthymia can prevent normal functioning. People with dysthymia can also experience episodes of major depression.
Depressive disorders and major depressive disorder differ in severity and length of symptoms. Minor depression is defined by a period of at least two weeks of depression. Minor depressive episodes do not fully meet the criteria for major depression but can develop into major depression if left untreated.
Other forms of depression exist as well. Psychotic depression occurs when psychosis, a complete break from reality, and depression are both present. Postpartum depression is sometimes experienced by new mothers. This form of depression results from physical and hormonal changes combined with the pressure of caring for a newborn. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects people during times of decreased sunlight, particularly in the winter months when the days are shorter.
Bipolar disorder is a dangerous and debilitating disorder that causes a person’s mood, activity and energy levels to shift unexpectedly. People with bipolar disorder experience severe mania, and they may or may not have episodes of depression. They usually have some periods of partial or full stability as well.
Substance-Induced Mood Disorders
The most common psychiatric co-occurring disorders are substance abuse and mood disorders. It is common for people with mood disorders to turn to substance abuse. The substance abuse, in turn, exacerbates the effects of the mood disorder. With careful assessment and screening, a psychiatrist can better distinguish between symptoms of mood disorder and substance intoxication or withdrawal. Some people experience reduced cravings for substances once their co-occurring depression or bipolar disorder is treated.
What Causes Mood Imbalances?
What causes mood imbalances is difficult to pinpoint. Depression is thought to be caused by a combination of environmental, psychological, biological and genetic factors. The most enduring theories involve neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain, causing an imbalance that leads to depression. So far, this theory has been difficult to verify.