Receiving any mental health diagnosis is overwhelming and often filled with battling our internal and external stigma, but all types of mood disorders, in particular, carry the weight of judgment and a loss of control. Disordered anything sounds scary. To our own ears and as a collective, we register the word as a threat to stability. It can feel like you are the threat merely by existing.
You are not. No matter your diagnosis, condition, or struggle, you are a human being who is capable of safety and stability. You are not a threat to stability- not your own or anyone else’s. However, managing a mood disorder is much more empowering when you have a solid knowledge base about mood disorders themselves.
Let’s take a look at the types of mood disorders and how they impact your life.
What’s a mood disorder?
Mood disorders are a collective of mental health conditions related to the chemicals in your brain that regulate how you feel, process, and express mood and expression. These disorders are characterized by periods of mood changes consistent with deep depression or wildly swinging highs and lows. The mood discrepancies may be caused by underlying health conditions or by an imbalance without a known source. Hormones—also called neurotransmitters—that regulate mood and emotions are altered when a mood disorder is present.
While the DSM-5 has divided them into two classes (Depressive and Bipolar), there are realistically 5 identifiable categories into which mood disorders often fall: Depressive, Bipolar, Substance-induced, Medically-induced, and Not Otherwise Specified.
To depress is to reduce the value of something, to cause sadness, or press down upon something with force—which is exactly what depressive mood disorders do. While they run the gamut of cause and application, each painted with a unique brushstroke of pain and hopelessness, there is a myriad of disorders under this umbrella. Depressive mood disorders are characterized by overwhelming sadness, a sense of hopelessness, and impairment in daily activity. The type or severity of depression may also expand to include a complete lack of motivation or “just” a loss of interest. (Is anything just something when it sucks at the depths of your soul?) While the below list isn’t inclusive, it is an overview of some of the diagnoses that fall under the Depressive Mood Disorders umbrella.
|Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)||A single episode of depression that lasts more than two weeks|
|Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)||Depression that lasts “most of the time” for a timespan longer than two years|
|Postpartum Depression (PPD)||Onset during (prenatal) or just after the end of a pregnancy|
|Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)||Occurs preceding a menstrual cycle|
|Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)||Depression that correlates with the onset of a seasonal occurrence, typically in winter|
|Minor Depressive Disorder||Episodes of depression that are recurrent but don’t meet major or dysthymic criteria.|
The stigma attached to the bipolar branch of disorders is scary, but the meaning of the word is quite utilitarian. While depression dips wholly in one direction, bipolar swings in two. This makes depression a unipolar (one pole) disorder, while the prefix bi- indicates two. And yet these two poles carry the weight of heavy stigma and instability from the judgment of those who do not understand what it represents. Bipolar disorders are characterized by high (manic) to low (depressed) cyclical shifts in mood and expression that feel like a constant contradiction you can’t track.
Manic periods look like less sleep, more activity, increased irritability, and a high pleasure-seeking sense. In these periods, people may experience a lower sleep requirement as well as racing thoughts and an elevated sense of distractedness. Depressive periods look much like they do for depressive disorders, with loss of interest and motivation, an increased desire to sleep, and elevated hopelessness.
These disorders are Bipolar 1 (manic leaning, more extreme), Bipolar 2 (depressive leaning), and Cyclothymic (chronic cycling between the two).
Substance Abuse Mood Disorders
Amid the myriad of challenges substance use and recovery may present, mood disorders are another that may take up space in your life. Changing the way our bodies send and receive neurotransmitters or altering them through the use of psychoactive substances, can impact our mood and create an imbalance in our ability to feel our emotions. Both the use of and withdrawal from substances can bring on an impact on your mood but these disturbances often resolve as you return to equilibrium after these extremes.
Medically Induced Mood Disorders
Other medical illnesses can impact the way our bodies manufacture and engage with our mood. While other medical conditions may bring on bipolar or depressive type mood symptoms, depressive types are more common in diagnoses like Parkinson’s and Hypothyroidism.
Not otherwise specified
Sometimes, there’s no clear answer to define mood struggles. Even if labwork can identify the neurotransmitters that aren’t where they need to be, or an evaluation can pinpoint the symptoms causing duress, it’s not always possible to determine what’s causing it. If there is a definitive cause for mood-related concern, this diagnosis can be used to prevent delays in treatment and ensure you get the care you need.
Moods that feel out of control or unfamiliar may create feelings of uncertainty in your world. The stigma that comes along with not only the symptoms but the diagnosis and quest for support can make it feel like an impossible fight to win. You are already fighting a valiant battle though, and no matter the tone of the world, we are here to support you as you conquer this one too.