Mood Disorders

A mood disorder can cause an uncharacteristic change in a person's personality that can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from severe depression to hyperactivity. As opposed to simply being in a "good" or "bad" mood, it is a disturbance of a normal mood pattern that is persistent and causes disruption to daily functioning. Mood disorders are influenced by a number of factors. Genetics are a major factor of the development of these disorders, which tend to run in families.

Depression is one of the most common disorders, involving feelings of hopelessness, low energy and changes in eating, sleeping and sex drive. Depression is particularly difficult to diagnose due in part to the fact that a high percentage of people may be affected by it during their lifetime. Like many other conditions concerning mental health, it still carries a degree of stigma. People may see depression as a weakness; something than can be overcome by stoicism and this fact may prevent them from seeking help. People may view it as a natural response to devastating life events such as a loss or disappointment and therefore fail to recognize the severity of their depression.

Common mood disorders include bipolar, major depressive and seasonal affective. A sufferer of bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, will be affected by very high, then very low moods at different times. The manic state of this disorder can be characterized by frenzied behavior, rapid speech and unrealistic goals or claims. While in this state, there may be a tendency to make ill-judged decisions. The low mood side of this disorder may include weight change, difficulty in concentrating and a lack of interest in life.

Major depressive disorder can have a number of symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, fatigue and overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief. There may also be thoughts of death or suicide. It lasts for a minimum of two weeks and symptoms occur almost daily. It is more than a transitory feeling of sadness, or the "blues". Most people find that the major symptoms will disappear within 6 to 12 months, while some will experience chronic depression, where symptoms last for two years or more. A small proportion of these will have depression that is severe enough to warrant hospitalization. According to research, approximately 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men experience a major depressive disorder during their lives (Millman, Huber & Diggins, 1982).

Another type of depressive disorder is dysthymic disorder, where moderate depression is experienced over a prolonged period of time, and sufferers are not without symptoms for longer than two months. They may experience symptoms such as social withdrawal, feelings of guilt and regret and unwarranted anger. Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression in which people react to seasonal changes. People affected by SAD are particularly sensitive to decreasing amounts of sunlight and the colder temperatures of fall and winter, although it may also present in the summer. Symptoms include fatigue, aching limbs and overeating, particularly of carbohydrates and so weight gain can also become a factor. Regular exposure to bright light and particularly fluorescent lights has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms in people who experience this disorder in the fall. This treatment is also called phototherapy.

Other mood disorders may be caused by medical conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or HIV infection. In these cases, the mood disorder is related to the medical condition. Substance abuse can also be a factor in the onset of mood disorders.

Mood disorders can be treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. A popular psychotherapeutic approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has been shown to be effective in treating mood disorders. CBT is a technique-driven treatment that can be tailored towards the symptoms of specific psychological disorders. A fundamental principle of CBT is to explore how a patient's world view may affect their mood or outlook on life. Alternative treatments may also be explored, such as aromatherapy, acupuncture and light therapy. There is also some evidence to suggest that the herb St. John's wort (Latin name, Hypericum perforatum) can be effective in treating some types of depression. It has gained widespread acceptance among science professionals, although its long-term effectiveness has not been proven. There is also evidence to suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial in treating mood disorders.

Mood Disorders: Selected full-text books and articles

Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A Psychopharmacological Approach By David Nutt; Caroline Bell; Christine Masterson; Clare Short Martin Dunitz, 2001
Dealing with Depression: A Commonsense Guide to Mood Disorders By Gordon Parker; David Straton; Kay Wilhelm; Philip Mitchell; Marie-Paule Austin; Kerrie Eyers; Dusan Hadzi-Paviovic; Gin Malhi; Sue Grdovic Allen & Unwin, 2004 (2nd edition)
Raising a Moody Child: How to Cope with Depression and Bipolar Disorder By Mary A. Fristad; Jill S. Goldberg Arnold Guilford Press, 2004
Mayo Clinic on Depression By Keith Kramlinger Mason Crest, 2002
Adolescence and Mood Disorders By Calles, Joseph L., Jr.; Nazeer, Ahsan International Journal of Child Health and Human Development, Vol. 5, No. 2, April 1, 2012
The Mistreatment of Mood Disorders in Youth By Foltz, Robert Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 2006
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Role of Father Participation in the Treatment of Childhood Mood Disorders By Schock, Angie M.; Gavazzi, Stephen M.; Fristad, Mary A.; Goldberg-Arnold, Jill S Family Relations, Vol. 51, No. 3, July 2002
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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