written by: Rene Wolf
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 2/17/2011
Mood disorders are characterized by changes or disturbances in a person's mood. Postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and cyclothymia are examples of mood disorders, each of which has its own set of symptoms.
Cyclothymia is a chronic mood disorder that results in emotional ups and downs. Between the cyclothymic highs and lows, the person will typically feel fine and stable. The highs and lows of cyclothymia are less extreme than those associated with bipolar disorder; however, if the symptoms are not managed correctly, there is an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder. The symptoms of cyclothymia include alternating patterns of emotional highs and lows with the highs characterized by hypomanic symptoms and the lows characterized by mild to moderate symptoms of depression. Someone with cyclothymia will typically be able to perform many of their daily activities, however, the unpredictable mood changes may cause a significant disruption as they never know how they are going to feel. The symptoms of the hypomania phase and the depressive stage of cyclothymia differ from each other.
The symptoms of the hypomanic phase of cyclothymic disorder include agitation, over optimism, inconsideration of others, an increased desire to complete goals, poor judgment, rapid speech and an increase in self-esteem. Other symptoms are:
Difficulty concentrating due to continuous "racing" thoughts
Racing thoughts-they cannot focus on the task at hand and therefore are constantly thinking ahead
Aggressive or hostile behavior-he/she may become aggressive at the slightest inconvenience
Unusual cheerfulness or good mood-also known as euphoria
Risky behavior such as substance use or increased and unprotected sexual activity
Spending sprees-shopping for unnecessary items without thinking of the financial consequences
Increase in physical activity-examples include running or jogging more than usual
Less need for sleep- they will often attempt to stay awake for several days
During the depressive phase of cyclothymic disorder the person may experience extreme sadness, hopelessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulties concentrating, guilt and a decrease in sex drive. Other symptoms are:
Sleeping difficulties- they may sleep more than usual, or have difficulties falling/staying asleep
Changes in appetite-they may be unable to eat or may eat more than usual
Chronic physical pain-may include muscle aches, headache, stomach ache and other pains not associated with a medical condition
Loss of interest in activities- he/she may lose the desire to spend time with usual hobbies, will not want to associate with friends/family and may miss work
Suicidal thoughts or behavior-they may talk about death, contemplate suicide or act out on their suicidal thoughts.
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Examples Of Mood Disorders: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by depression that typically occurs during the same time each year. People with SAD will usually start to experience symptoms in the fall which will persist throughout the winter months. People with seasonal affective disorder typically feel as though their energy has been zapped. This is a seasonal condition, which means that the symptoms will come and go at the same time each year. Although rare, some people may experience reverse seasonal affective disorder. With reverse seasonal affective disorder, the symptoms occur during the spring and summer months and are mania oriented such as hyperactivity, elevated mood, increased social activity, and enthusiasm inappropriate for the event.
Symptoms of fall/winter seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) include:
Loss of energy
Withdrawal from social environments
Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
A change in appetite
Spring and summer seasonal affective disorder (summer depression) symptoms include:
Excessive weight loss
Lack of appetite
Increased sex drive
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Examples of Mood Disorders: Postpartum Depression
It is not uncommon for a new mother to experience a wide array of emotions including crying spells or mood swings; however, they typically recover quickly. A new mother who is experiencing severe and longer lasting symptoms of depression may be suffering with postpartum depression.
Symptoms for postpartum depression may include:
Change in appetite
Extreme irritability and/or anger
Excessive fatigue or insomnia
Feelings of guilt and/or shame
Severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with baby
Lack of interest in sex
Withdraw from family, friends and activities usually enjoyed
Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.