Extremes of Mood
Central to mood disorders are the emotions of depression and mania. These are two extremes of mood, although depression is about 10 times more common than mania. Depression also occurs in nearly all cases of mood disorder. It affects all social classes and all ethnic groups and is fast becoming the leading form of disease in the Western world. It is estimated that around 17 percent of all adults in the world will experience an episode of severe depression at some point in their lives (Kessler et al., 2005) and whilst some will recover within six weeks to a year, most will have at least one episode of depression later in life.
The symptoms of depression affect emotions, thought processes, behavior and physiology. The clearest symptom of depression involves the emotions, most notably intense sadness, dejection, unhappiness and anxiety. However, thought processes and motivation also suffer through lack of interest in things previously found pleasurable and the drive to only become involved in the most modest activities. With depression comes low energy, low libido, slow and heavy movements and neglect of personal appearance. Sleep disturbances are common and many depressed women find their menstrual cycle disrupted. Appetite is frequently poor although some people turn to comfort eating.
In stark contrast to depression the symptoms of mania are characterized by expansive, grandiose and persistently elevated moods. This is a feature of bipolar disorder, so-called because, in most people with the disorder, symptoms include mania as well as depression, although symptoms of bipolar depression may differ somewhat. Like depression, emotions, thought processes, behavior and physiology are affected. The path to mania is usually preceded by a stage of elevated mood, energy and enthusiasm, called hypomania. Some people peak at this stage whilst others move to a state of mania. During mania everything about the person is on overdrive. Thoughts race, speech is pressurized and often disjointed and attention is constantly switching from one thing to the next. Behavior is often quite disruptive during mania and can result in high agitation and aggression. Hallucinations and delusions may appear and as a result the person may engage in very risky forms of behavior that threaten themselves and the people they come into contact with.