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Symptoms & Signs of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are a group of diagnosable mental health disorders that get their name because they involve serious, life-disrupting changes in normal mood. There are two main subgroups in this category: depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. In turn, each of these subgroups contains several conditions with their own specific signs and symptoms. Let’s take a general look at these conditions before exploring the symptoms of each disorder.

Depressive Disorders

The depressive disorders are a group of mental disorders that involve some form of depression. Doctors use this term to describe a “down” or negative mental state that has a significant damaging impact on the ability to carry out a normal routine in everyday life. There are four primary depressive disorders: major depressive disorder (major depression), persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This category also includes four less well-defined conditions, including depression caused by substance or medication use, depression caused by a separate medical condition and depression with an unknown underlying cause.

Bipolar Disorders

The bipolar disorders are grouped together because they all involve swings between an unusually “up” or manic mental state and some degree of depression. Most people are familiar with the existence of bipolar I disorder (known broadly as manic depression). The category also includes two other primary conditions: bipolar II disorder and cyclothymic disorder or cyclothymia. In addition, it includes bipolar symptoms triggered by substance or medication use, separate medical conditions, or unknown or unique underlying causes.

Depressive Mood Disorder Symptoms

Major Depression — People affected by this very serious condition experience symptoms that can include a persistently down mood, sleeplessness or excessive sleepiness, lack of energy, an inability to experience pleasure, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, a notable drop or increase in appetite, a lack of mental clarity and uncontrolled and purposeless body movements. They can also develop suicidal thought patterns, make actual suicide plans or carry out active suicide attempts. Doctors only make a diagnosis when at least five of the nine possible symptoms are present within a two-week span of time.

Persistent Depressive Disorder — People with this condition experience a less severe form of depression than people with major depression. However, this down mood lasts for at least two years without any significant letup. Specific indications of persistent depressive disorder include sleeplessness or excessive sleepiness, lack of energy, substantial changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness and a lack of mental clarity.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder — This mental health disorder typically appears in children under the age of 10. It’s characterized by three symptoms: a generally angry or irritable mood, outbursts of severe anger that make no sense for the child’s age or current circumstances, and a mood-based inability to function well in at least two social or personal environments. Each symptom must recur repeatedly for at least a year.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder — This condition produces changes in a woman’s mood that are tied to the monthly menstrual cycle. These changes resemble those associated with premenstrual syndrome, but are much more intense. Possible symptoms include an angry or irritable mood, a down mood, an anxious or jittery mood, rapid changes in mood, lack of energy, sleeplessness, excessive sleepiness, lack of energy, loss of mental clarity, weight gain, bloating and breast tenderness.

Bipolar Mood Disorder Symptoms

Bipolar I Disorder — People with this condition experience bouts of full-blown mania that last for a week or longer, or experience shorter and more intense bouts of mania. They also experience bouts of depression that are severe enough to meet the definition of major depression. Specific symptoms of mania include elation, an inflated sense of self, reckless pursuit of pleasure, a diminished need for sleep, jitteriness, racing thoughts, unusual talkativeness and a diminished attention span.

Bipolar II Disorder — The symptoms of this condition generally resemble the symptoms of bipolar I disorder. However, instead of experiencing bouts of full-blown mania, affected individuals experience briefer bouts of a less severe form of mania known as hypomania.

Cyclothymic Disorder – Like people with bipolar II disorder, people with cyclothymic disorder experience bouts of hypomania and depression. However, neither their manic symptoms nor their depressive symptoms are intense or long-lasting enough to meet the criteria for bipolar II disorder.

Resources

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Mood Disorders https://medlineplus.gov/mooddisorders.html

Merck Manual – Professional Version: Depressive Disorders http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders

National Institute of Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

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