Mood Disorders

Mood Disorders

Blake cries all day and feeling that he is worthless and his life is hopeless, he cannot get out of bed. Crystal stays up all night, talks very rapidly, and went on a shopping spree in which she spent $3,000 on furniture, although she cannot afford it. Maria recently had a baby, and she feels overwhelmed, teary, anxious, and panicked, and believes she is a terrible mother—practically every day since the baby was born. All these individuals demonstrate symptoms of a potential mood disorder.

Mood disorders (Figure) are characterized by severe disturbances in mood and emotions—most often depression, but also mania and elation (Rothschild, 1999). All of us experience fluctuations in our moods and emotional states, and often these fluctuations are caused by events in our lives. We become elated if our favorite team wins the World Series and dejected if a romantic relationship ends or if we lose our job. At times, we feel fantastic or miserable for no clear reason. People with mood disorders also experience mood fluctuations, but their fluctuations are extreme, distort their outlook on life, and impair their ability to function.

A photograph shows a person sitting in a fetal position.
Mood disorders are characterized by massive disruptions in mood. Symptoms can range from the extreme sadness and hopelessness of depression to the extreme elation and irritability of mania. (credit: Kiran Foster)

The DSM-5 lists two general categories of mood disorders. Depressive disorders are a group of disorders in which depression is the main feature. Depression is a vague term that, in everyday language, refers to an intense and persistent sadness. Depression is a heterogeneous mood state—it consists of a broad spectrum of symptoms that range in severity. Depressed people feel sad, discouraged, and hopeless. These individuals lose interest in activities once enjoyed, often experience a decrease in drives such as hunger and sex, and frequently doubt personal worth. Depressive disorders vary by degree, but this chapter highlights the most well-known: major depressive disorder (sometimes called unipolar depression).

Bipolar and related disorders are a group of disorders in which mania is the defining feature. Mania is a state of extreme elation and agitation. When people experience mania, they may become extremely talkative, behave recklessly, or attempt to take on many tasks simultaneously. The most recognized of these disorders is bipolar disorder.

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