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MOOD DISORDERS

Mood Disorders:
What Are They and How Do They Affect Us
Emmanuella Enemor
Florida International University

MOOD DISORDERS

Mood Disorders:
What Are They and How Do They Affect Us
Mood disorders are a category of mental conditions that affect an individuals emotions,
ability to regulate emotions, and quality of life. This category holds common and uncommon
disorders such as bipolar disorder, major depression, anhedonia, mania, seasonal affective
disorder, postpartum depression, dysthymia, and cyclothymia. In order to diagnose an individual
with a mood disorder, a licensed psychologist would refer to the criteria found in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This paper will answer the
following questions regarding mood disorders:
1.
2.
3.
4.

What are the characteristics of each disorder?


What are the causes?
What are the treatments options?
How do they affect everyday life?
This paper will focus on four types of mood disorders; major depression, bi polar

disorder, mania, and postpartum depression.


What Are the Characteristics of Each Disorder?
A mood disorder is defined as a disturbance in emotional experience that is strong
enough to intrude on everyday living (Feldman, 2013, p.470). This emphasizes the need for the
emotions to sustain a large impact on ones life and/or lifestyle before it can be considered a
disorder. If it does not have an impact on ones life then it is not a disorder. It is this textbook
definition that separates ordinary emotional challenges like mood swings and sadness from
mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and major depression.
Major depression is one of the more common mood disorders. The DMS-5 lists
symptoms that indicate major depression. In order to be diagnosed with major depression, a
person must display five or more of the following symptoms during a two week period:
significant distress or impairment in occupational and/or occupational settings, depressed mood

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for the majority of the day, deteriorating interest/pleasure in almost all activities daily, significant
change in appetite or weight loss/gain, insomnia or hypersomnia nearly daily, loss of energy or
fatigue, feeling worthless or excessively guilty, indecision or difficulties thinking and
concentrating (DSM-5, 2013). The duration of major depression may last anywhere from a few
months to multiple years and may have no clear trigger for the severe sadness. Suicide is a big
risk factor.
Postpartum depression and major depression are similar; they are both depressive mood
disorders with similar symptoms, however the trigger factor for postpartum depression is
childbirth. This disorder is related to the baby blues which is not actually a disorder but rather
an emotional experience some mothers have after childbirth that includes trouble sleeping, mood
swings and rapidly fading crying spells. Baby blues and postpartum depression can be
differentiated by their duration period and intensity of symptoms; postpartum depression is, both,
more intense and longer lasting. Mothers experiencing this disorder may have thoughts of
harming themselves of their baby (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2012).
Mania can be described as an elongated state of intense, wild elation. Now, one may ask,
why exactly would an extended state of happiness be considered a disorder? This is because
people experiencing mania feel absolutely limitless, powerful, and untouchable; which causes
them to participate in high-risk activities and be involved in wild schemes that may cause harm
to them or those around them. Those with mania risk driving their loved ones away/ to
exhaustion with their excessive activity and talkativeness, meanwhile feeling on top of the world.
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a disorder that is not as
common as people may think. Angst-y teenagers may diagnose their parents with bipolar
disorder because of their mood swings, however the two are not one in the same. Bipolar
disorder is a disorder in which a person alternates between periods of euphoric feelings of
mania and periods of depression. (Feldman, 2013, p.427). The swings from high to low can

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occur some days apart or they may occur a few years apart. The periods of depression usually
outlast those of mania.
What Are the Causes?
The cause(s) of each disorder vary depending on which psychological perspective they
are evaluated through. For example; if evaluated through a humanistic perspective, the cause of
major depression would be loss of status, power, social ranking, money, people, etc. However,
from a cognitive perspective, the cause of major depression would be cognitive distortion or
illogical thinking. This paper will evaluate the causes of each disorder through a biological
perspective.
When it comes to major depression, genetics play a role in deciding whether or not a
person will develop it. It is hereditary, meaning it tends to run in families. People are 1.5 to 3
times more probable to be diagnosed with this disorder if a close relative suffers from it, as
opposed to a person who does not have a history of depression their family (Langham, 2015).
Abnormal brain structure and chemistry can also cause major depression. This includes having a
chemical imbalance in neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine and/or areas that
regulate sleep, mood, thinking, and behavior (e.g. hypothalamus, limbic system). As well as
hormone imbalances in the thyroid. Women are two times more prone to depression than men
(Feldman, 2013).
Postpartum depression can be triggered by a substantial drop in estrogen and
progesterone, which may be a side effect of childbirth. Like major depression, imbalances in
hormones produced by the thyroid can play a role. Individuals who have previously suffered
from depression or have cases of bipolar disorder in their family history risk a larger chance of
developing postpartum depression.
Genetics play an important role in mania and bipolar disorder as well, because they often
run in families. The risk of having mania or bipolar disorder grows when members of the

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immediate family have the disorder. However, neither disorders are guaranteed through genes;
this is verified by studies with identical twins, where one develops the disorder and the other
does not (NAMI, 2015). Imbalances in three main chemicals (norepinephrine, serotonin, and
dopamine) are associated with bipolar disorder. Damage in brain tissue can, in fact, predispose a
person to both illnesses; meaning brain structure may play a role in these disorders.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy are effective for treating all the disorders discussed
in this paper (Schulberg, 1996). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) e.g. Prozac,
Paxil, and Zoloft are effective drugs for treating major depression and postpartum depression.
They are commonly prescribed because they have fewer side effects than other kinds of
antidepressants like serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), norepinephrinedopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), tricyclics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Hormone therapy is a choice for treating postpartum depression. Cognitive-behavioral and
interpersonal therapy are most effective in treating depression. Combining both the medication
and therapy would have superior results.
To treat mania and bipolar disorder, individuals would take mood stabilizing medications
or antipsychotics. Lithium is the most commonly prescribed drug for these disorders. The
recommended psychotherapy options are bipolar-specific cognitive behavioral therapy,
interpersonal therapy, and family-focused therapy.
How Do They Affect Everyday Life?
Mood disorders can really take a toll on an individuals everyday life. They often distort
the perspectives of reality, making the diagnosed individual see life differently from what it is.
People have their own personal realities.
People who suffer from depression constantly have problems eating and sleeping. They
lose interest in, what should be fun, activities. Their self-concept is distorted with negative

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aspects alone. They have problems sustaining healthy personal relationships because of their
depressive tendencies and, often, lack of self-worth. They often become isolated from society for
a couple of reasons. One being, that they have no interest in participating in social events,
another being, that people dont generally like being around people who are constantly down
and/or negative, because it affects their mood too.
People with mania often put themselves in danger daily. Their constant high, unstoppable
feeling clouds their ability to make good judgment calls. They may make decisions that put them
in harms way physically or making large monetary investments that leave them in debt. In
addition, they often exhaust loved ones who are constantly making an effort to keep up with
them.
Individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder periodically suffer from both depression and
mania. They may suffer from both sides in a week or suffer from one for a complete month. This
makes retaining relationships difficult; loved ones have to deal with a constant change in
personality.
Each mood disorder has its own characteristics, treatment options, causes, and affects.
They do share a few things in common, that is why they are branched under the same category. It
is unfavorable to say any is worse than the other.

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References
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Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Washington: American
Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.
Feldman, R. (2013). Chapter 12: Psychological Disorders. In Essentials of understanding
psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Langham, R.Y. "Biological Factors for Depression." LIVESTRONG.COM. Demand Media,
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Schulberg, Herbert. "Treating Major Depression in Primary Care Practice: Eight-Month Clinical
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