Mood Disorders are Common but Treatment Options Vary
Mood Disorders

Treatment Options for Mood Disorders

Mood swings, we all experience them on occasion. The key is to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that what you are experiencing are actually mood swings and not mood disorders. There is a big difference between the two. While one may require a simple change of scenery or environment, the other will only respond to effective treatment. A psychiatrist is able to help you distinguish between the two.

The important point is that mood disorders are highly treatable.

To better understand the significance of mood disorders, further details follow. I’ll be focusing mostly on conditions associated with depression but will touch on Bipolar too particularly Bipolar Depression.

Mood Disorders

A mood disorder is defined as a class of mental health conditions that include all levels of bipolar conditions and depression. These disorders can be experienced by all ages including kids, teenagers, adults and older adults. Mood disorders can be treated with antidepressants and mood stabilizers, lifestyle changes, and therapy methods, amongst others.

Categories of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are not simply categorized underneath a single umbrella. They are broken down into several categories. Here are a few of the most known and treated mood disorders:

  • Chronic Depression or Dysthymia: is classified as a persistent, low-grade, irritable state of depression that lingers for two or more years. It is important to recognize this treatable condition because people may struggle with this lifelong and think it is just their personality.
  • “Major” Depression: Here, “Major” is not a description of severity but rather a type of depression that includes a combination of symptoms, usually in mood, physical and thinking/concentrating areas. Symptoms may include loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable, feelings of doubt or sadness, sluggishness or alternatively feeling anxious/agitated, and the feeling that things aren’t going to get better.  By definition, symptoms have been present for at least two weeks (and often longer). Major Depression can be Mild, Moderate or Severe.
  • Bipolar Depression: one of the most common categories is bipolar depression, which defines stages of depression that alternate with mild or pronounced highs or irritable/agitated states. It is important to recognize this type of depression because the depressed phase can look exactly like non-Bipolar Depression but the treatment is very different (The full spectrum of Bipolar disorder, including the manic phase is described under “Conditions Treated”).
  • “Adjustment Disorder” is the official term for a situational depression. Psychotherapy and lifestyle changes are important consideration for this condition.
  • Substance-induced: This category of mood disorders includes those symptoms that occur as a side effect of medication, toxin exposure, abuse of drugs (prescribed or illegal) or alcohol.
  • Some medical and neurological conditions themselves can cause depression. Sometimes it is a reaction to having the illness but other times the medical or neurological condition directly causes the depression by creating a chemical imbalance. Contrary to popular belief, these depressions are also very treatable.

Why Do Mood Disorders Occur?

There are several contributing factors that lead to mood disorders. Ultimately, they occur due to the disproportion of brain chemicals and imbalance of brain pathways. Stressful life events can cause these altered mood states. Depression can also happen when there is little life stress. When feelings of depression are triggered or worsened by stressful life events, the depression can make it more difficult to manage the stress that’s precipitating the depression in the first place.

Both biological factors and life stress may be important within an individual; for example, a person may have a genetic susceptibility towards depression but a stressor is necessary to trigger the condition.

Mood disorders have the tendency occur among relatives.  A genetic contribution to depression is now very well established.  This is why we see that children who have parents or other family members who suffer from mood disorders have a greater chance of experiencing them also.

Who can suffer from mood disorders?

Mood disorders can affect anyone. Some develop depression when objectively everything is great in their lives.  For others, it occurs in the context of significant stress.  Sometimes the depression will cause people to experience their stress as worse than it practically is — cognitive therapy, with or without medication depending on the severity, is extremely helpful in this case. Therapy is helpful because it can be hard for people to problem-solve when they are depressed. Also, therapy can help people see hidden influences in their personal psychology that contribute to the depression.

Mood disorders occur more often in females than males but spares neither sex. Any major life change, whether good or bad, such as employee termination, change in careers (forced or unforced), financial issues, marital status changes, or the death of family or a loved one can contribute to mood disorders.

Symptoms of Mood Disorders

The signs and symptoms that accompany mood disorders will vary. The symptoms occur according to age group and the category of mood disorder. Here are a few of the most common symptoms:

  • Ongoing or continuous feelings of guilt
  • Excessive sadness, anxiety, or flattened mood
  • Low self-esteem and self-blame
  • Relationship issues
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in eating habits, weight loss or gain
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of self-worth
  • Unhealthy change in sleep habits
  • Loss of energy
  • Lingering thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of wanting to escape or just not wake up the next morning
  • Sensitive response to failing or being rejected
  • Highly irritable, aggressive or extreme hostility
  • Problems focusing or concentrating
  • Frequent complaints of physical ailments such as headaches, fatigue, or stomachaches that are not related to other medical conditions

Mood disorders can easily mimic other health conditions or problems of mental health. A psychiatrist can help you arrive at a precise diagnosis.

Treatment of mood disorders

Mood disorders can be successfully and effectively treated. Following are a few treatment options:

  • Antidepressant medications: the combination of effective medicines and psychotherapy treatment work to treat depression and various mood disorders. At times, either one alone can be effective.
  • There are specific medications that are proven treatment for Bipolar Depression. It is important to recognize the condition because traditional antidepressants may not work here and, in fact, make the condition worse. Sometimes people who find themselves just very moody have been inadvertently treated with standard antidepressants when they actually have Bipolar Depression.  Mood Stabilizers are used for people with Bipolar who are having both highs and lows.
  • Other Medical Therapies: other types of therapy are available for effective treatment. They include certain supplements that can work as complementary treatments
  • TMS, and ECT.
  • Psychotherapy: There are many types of effective therapies including Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT), insight-oriented, practical problem-solving, interpersonal (enhancement of interpersonal interactions with others), amongst others. These should be tailored to the specific person and situation. Examples include focusing on helping the patient to change the negative outlook or opinion they have of themselves and give tools to improve their symptoms or circumstances. Correct and ongoing treatment of mood disorders helps sufferers resume and lead stable and healthy lives.


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