Mood disorders are a group of mental illnesses that affect how you feel and think about yourself, other people and life in general. There are a few different types of mood disorders: depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder.
Depression leaves you feeling sad or depressed. Some people experience depression as feeling “numb” or having no feelings. Depression can also make you feel irritable, hopeless and guilty. Many people living with depression lose interest in things they used to enjoy or and they often isolate themselves from family and friends. But depression can affect more than your mood: you might have a hard time concentrating or remembering. You might sleep or eat less than usual or more than usual. You might also feel tired all the time
Dysthymic disorder (also called dysthymia) is similar to depression. With dysthymic disorder, your symptoms of depression are milder but last for a longer period of time.
Bipolar disorder is made up of three different parts: depression, mania and normal feelings. The depression in bipolar disorder is like depression in any mood disorder. Mania is what makes bipolar disorder different. Some people experience this as feeling very happy, but others feel very irritable or angry during an episode of mania. Common symptoms of mania include feeling very powerful, not needing much sleep and having racing thoughts. During an episode of mania, many people also do things they wouldn’t normally do, like go on expensive shopping sprees they can’t afford, have risky sex or use alcohol and other substances more than usual. Bipolar disorder can look different in each person depending on how long the mania and depression episodes last, how severe they are, how quickly a person’s mood changes and how long a person has normal mood in between.
What can I do about it?
Mood disorders are very treatable. With the right treatment, about 80% of people no longer feel any symptoms at all. Some common treatments, used on their own or in combination, are:
Counselling: The most common forms of counselling for people living with a mood disorder are cognitive-behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT is the most common therapy treatment for mood disorders. CBT helps you understand the relationship between your mood, thoughts and behaviours. It also teaches skills like problem-solving that may help prevent symptoms from coming back in the future.
- When you’re depressed, your relationships with others often suffer. Interpersonal therapy can teach you skills to improve how you interact with other people.
Medication: Depression is usually treated with a group of medications called antidepressants and bipolar disorder is usually treated with a group of medication called mood stabilizers. You may also be prescribed other medications for psychosis or anxiety.
Electroconvulsive therapy: Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT may help people who experience severe depression or bipolar disorder, particularly when treatments like counselling and medication haven’t helped. Treatment is done in the hospital, and it involves passing an electrical current through the brain for a few seconds while you’re under general anaesthesia. Modern ECT is very safe, fast-acting and effective.
Self-management: There are some things you can do on your own to help keep you feeling better. Regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping a consistent sleep schedule, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, spirituality and monitoring your use of alcohol and other substances can help manage mood problems.