Mood disorders are psychiatric disabilities that primarily effect how people feel. These are disorders of emotion and affect. To be classified as a disorder the person must have a sustained change in how they feel. Short-term changes in one's feelings (i.e. "I am in a bad mood today" or "I feel depressed.") are generally viewed as the normal ups and downs of life. A mood disorder occurs when the change in feeling or affect lasts for many weeks or months, and has a significant impact on the person's life. Generally a person with a mood disorder will find that their down or sad feelings (in Depression); or elated or elevated feelings (in Bipolar disorder), impact all areas of their life including work, school, personal relationships and family. Treatment for mood disorders often includes both medications, and psychotherapy or counseling.
The Primary Mood Disorders Are:
Major Depressive Episode
This used to be called "neurotic depression." The person with dysthymia has a depressed mood that occurs most of the time for at least 2 years. However, they never meet the criteria for major depression. If they do meet the criteria for major depression they are diagnosis with depression, these people are said to have "double depression."
Often, Dysthymic disorder will begin in childhood or adolescence. Many people with Dysthymic disorder have another psychiatric disorder, often a personality disorder.
Depression can occur at any age but is more commonly diagnosed in adolescents and adults than in children. Depression usually begins as a low feeling, similar to normal mood swings, but continues to get worse and worse over a week to two week period. Within two weeks the depressive symptoms are usually very severe and are causing great distress and impairment in the person's occupational, interpersonal, and family functioning. Fifty percent of people who have a major depressive episode are likely to have a second one.
Women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression. Research indicates that at any given time between 4 and 9% of all women ( 2-3% of men) have major depression. Women have a lifetime risk of having a major depressive episode of 15 to 26% (men have a 5-12% lifetime risk). It is interesting to note that in developing countries, like those in Africa, the rate of depression is equal for men and women.
Information and or Criteria summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.