As the name suggests, mood disorders are characterized by disturbance in mood as a predominant feature. Mood Disorders fall into two general categories: the Depressive Disorders (e.g. Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Post-Partum Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the Bipolar Disorders (e.g. Type I, Type II, Cyclothymia). Mood disturbance may also occur due to medical conditions and use of substances.
Depression has often been referred to as the “common cold” of mental health difficulties due to its high rate of occurrence. Approximately 15-25% of women and 10-15% of men will experience a major depressive episode during their lifetime. Depression is different than simple unhappiness, or grief following the loss of a loved one. It encompasses a range of symptoms that include the following:
- emotional (low mood, feeling hopeless)
- physical (change in appetite or sleep)
- behavioural (speaking slowly)
- cognitive (negative thoughts, difficulty concentrating)
Depression may be treated by medication, psychotherapy or a combination of these two approaches. Numerous studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can effectively treat depression by targetting behaviour and thinking patterns that cause and maintain depression.
The Bipolar Disorders are characterized by episodes of depressive and manic/hypomanic (elevated mood) symptoms. Manic-type symptoms include decreased need for sleep, an increase in goal-directed tasks, grandiose ideas, agitation, and inflated self-esteem. Bipolar symptoms are best managed by a combination of medication, and psychotherapy that targets active coping strategies, stress management, medication compliance and negative thinking.
It is important to emphasize that suicidal thoughts and difficulty with daily functioning are common for those experiencing a mood disturbance. It is extremely important to consult with your physician, or seek the help of a qualified mental health professional, if you believe that you or someone you care about may be struggling with a Mood Disorder. Mood disturbance can be effectively treated or managed with the assistance of skilled health care providers. For further information, visit the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario at www.mooddisorders.on.ca.
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