To some extent, emotional ups and downs are normal. Everyone has had a good day turn into a bad one; that’s just life. However, frequent mood changes that greatly affect daily life could be indicative of an affective disorder. Also referred to as mood disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, affective disorders are mental health conditions that can vary from mild to severe intensity. The most common types of mood disorders fall into these categories:
Affective disorders can greatly hamper an individual’s ability to function in everyday life. However, effective treatments, including counseling and medication management, can greatly increase the quality of life for people suffering from these conditions. The first step is recognizing symptoms of affective disorders, and then reaching out for help from mental health professionals.
Affective disorders are categorized by significant surges of emotion that disrupt daily life. This may look like “mood swings,” or it may just feel like an intense emotional response that does not fit the situation. Note that while you likely experience different emotions every day, affective disorders refer to significant changes that may impair your professional and personal life.
For a mental health issue to be categorized as a disorder, it must be disruptive to your life. So if you believe you have an affective disorder, you might experience trouble completing tasks, maintaining professionalism, or other daily living functions. Additionally, these mood swings often come on and leave for seemingly no reason.
Affective disorders are also called mood disorders because they can cause significant mood shifts, including depressed moods, elevated moods, or swings between the two. There are many affective disorders classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, however the most common are:
Clinicians refer to generalized depression as major depressive disorder, and it is characterized by feeling intensely hopeless and sad. It’s important to distinguish between feeling sad for a couple of days, as opposed to depression, which is typically diagnosed after months of sadness (or other symptoms listed below).
More than anything, doctors diagnose depression when these feelings are not in response to an event or circumstance. There are many types of depression, and symptoms of depression include:
American psychiatric professionals diagnose bipolar disorder when an individual swings between overjoyed and sad, referred to as depression and mania. Contrary to what you might see on TV or in movies, bipolar disorder doesn’t necessarily mean immediate fluctuations in between these two states. A person may go through a period of mania having intense, almost uncontrollable levels of energy, where they engaged in reckless behavior, then not sleep properly for weeks as they go through a depressed phase.
As discussed, depression symptoms include intense feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, feelings of weakness, and so on. In severe cases, bipolar disorder may also include psychosis as a symptom. The key to a bipolar disorder diagnosis is experiencing both mania and depression, not just one or the other.
Seasonal affective disorder affects millions of Americans each year. Generally, individuals suffering from SAD experience periods of depression-like symptoms in the fall and winter. Researchers have generally agreed this is often due to reduced vitamin D levels from a lack of sunlight exposure. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder may include:
Often, individuals suffering from SAD will start to experience symptoms in October/November, and people in colder climates don’t feel relief until as late as May. Mental health professionals generally recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and counseling sessions to help people cope with seasonal affective disorder.
Like depression, anxiety disorder is a generalized term that can refer to a wide range of conditions. Individuals with these conditions typically experience feelings of nervousness and fear in situations where there is no potential threat to them. In these cases, people experience irrational fear distinguishing them from everyday stress. Common anxiety disorders include:
There are many varieties of affective disorders. Some other common examples include:
Cyclothymic Disorder: Similar condition to bipolar disorder, except with less intense episodes of mania and depression
Substance-Induced Depression: Depression is just one of many co-occurring conditions that can appear with substance abuse. This affective disorder appears when depression occurs alongside the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: severe and chronic irritability in children characterized by intense emotional outbursts that are not due to the child’s age or general personality.
More research is needed to determine the exact causes of affective disorders. Research has proven a combination of both environmental and genetic factors play a role and can lead to the development of mood disorders. Some of these factors include:
Nearly 40 million adults suffer from affective disorders, but less than one third of people seek treatment. Many people instead choose to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to attempt to overcome mood disorder symptoms. This creates a cycle that only worsens mood disorder symptoms. In this cycle, drugs and alcohol may slowly change the brain’s chemistry to increase symptoms and dependence on these substances.
Living with a mood disorder can be extremely difficult. However, many of them are treatable. Treatment begins with a diagnosis from a mental healthcare professional; from there, your clinician will create a tailored plan for your needs. And at Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, we’re ready to work with you to help treat your affective disorders.
Affective disorders are common and can seriously disrupt lives. That’s why learning symptoms and seeking treatment are so important. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, call our friendly admissions specialists at 937-483-4933 or ask your questions online. Connect with a healthcare professional today to start your journey towards long-lasting mental health.