Depression and Mood Disorders

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What Are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders, or affective disorders, represent a category of mental illness that includes all types of depression and bipolar disorders. A mood disorder is a medical disorder characterized by episodes of depression that sometimes alternate with periods of elevated mood. Major depression disorder (MDD) is the most common mood disorder. Other illnesses in the category include dysthymia, bipolar disorder and substance-induced mood disorders.

Mood disorders significantly disrupt people’s lives in one or more ways. They may impair their ability to function at work or cause them to withdraw from their community, friends and family. Without treatment, symptoms can last for months or even years, causing needless suffering.

Here is a closer look at these conditions:

Major Depression – This condition is characterized by two or more weeks of hopelessness or irritability, decreased interest in usual activities and other symptoms. Most people with major depressive disorder (MDD) experience their first episode in their mid-20s, although younger people are beginning to report depressive symptoms more frequently than in the past. The earlier depression sets in, the more persistent and severe it tends to be in adulthood.

Dysthymia – Also called dysthymic disorder, this condition involves an ongoing, low-grade depressed mood that lasts at least one year. It often begins in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood.

Bipolar Disorder – Also called manic depression, this disorder involves one or more episodes of depressed mood and one or more periods of mania, or elevated mood.

Substance-induced mood disorder – This disorder is marked by symptoms of depression that are more likely the result of substance abuse, intoxication, the effects of medication, exposure to toxins or withdrawal from substance use than of an underlying mental illness.

Mood disorder related to another medical condition – Cancer, heart disease, injuries, infections Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are a few of the medical issues that can trigger symptoms of depression. Other conditions such as drug or alcohol abuse and eating disorders can emerge as a result of having a mood disorder.

Mood Disorder Symptoms

Some of the most common depression disorder symptoms are ongoing feelings of sadness, helplessness, inadequacy and irritability. With bipolar disorder, those feelings cycle back and forth with heightened mood and extreme optimism.

Other symptoms of mood disorders include:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Changes in appetite
  • Excessive pessimism
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (Note: Anyone with this symptom should immediately seek out help at a mood treatment center, hospital or other resource)

Symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder include:

  • Feeling extremely positive or active
  • Exaggerated self-confidence
  • Feeling extraordinarily creative or ambitious
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Racing speech or thoughts
  • Irritability or aggressiveness
  • Impulsiveness or reckless behavior (e.g., shopping sprees, sex with multiple partners)
  • In the most severe cases, psychosis that may include delusions or hallucinations

What Causes Mood Disorders?

The causes of mood disorders aren’t entirely understood, though the prevailing theories are that genetics, a chemical imbalance in the brain or stressful life events (such as divorce, being fired from a job, a death in the family or financial problems) are among the underlying causes. Once a person in the family has been diagnosed with a mood disorder, their siblings and children have an increased chance of the same diagnosis. Family members of people with depression are also at heightened risk for bipolar disorder.

Prevalence of Mood Disorders

  • Nearly 10% of American adults have a mood disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • The World Health Organization ranks major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder among the top 10 causes of disability worldwide.
  • Thirty is the median age of onset for mood disorders.
  • Women are 50% more likely than men to experience a mood disorder over their lifetime.
  • Depressive disorders often occur alongside anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

How Are Mood Disorders Treated?

When accurately diagnosed and treated, people with mood disorders can live healthy, stable lives.

For most individuals, mood disorders can be effectively treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy), dialectical behavior therapy (a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication. Antidepressant and mood-stabilizing medications may be used alone or in combination. Supplemental therapies found at a mood treatment center may include:

  • Trauma resolution therapies (such as EMDR)
  • Group psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Yoga
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Acupuncture and massage therapy
  • Psychodrama

Mood Disorder and Substance Use Disorder

Mood disorders are the most common co-occurring disorders among patients with substance use disorders. Research has shown that treating both disorders simultaneously gives an individual the best opportunity to achieve lasting recovery. Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in treating a dual diagnosis of a mood disorder and substance use disorder and is in fact the first line of treatment. For example, in a study of depressed alcoholics, those who received alcohol treatment plus cognitive behavioral therapy for depression showed greater improvements in depression disorder symptoms and had more days abstinent and fewer drinks per day at three- and six-month follow-up visits than a control group.

Interestingly, some medications may benefit individuals with multiple issues. For instance, evidence suggests that the medication bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban), which is used for treating depression and nicotine addiction, also helps reduce the use of methamphetamine. The same holistic treatments used for major depression, such as massage therapy, yoga and acupuncture, have also been proven to help people with a dual diagnosis.

If you are suffering from depression, another mood disorder or a co-occurring addiction to alcohol or other drugs, treatment can change everything. You can experience joy in life again. Millions of people have recovered from these illnesses and you can too. Call us today.

Do you have questions about our Depression and Mood Disorders program? If so, call 844-875-5609

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