Mood Disorders

Unipolar Depressive Disorders

People often use the term "depression" to describe feeling sad, blue, or "down in the dumps." However, feeling "depressed" is not considered a psychological disorder until it begins to interfere with normal life. Someone who has bouts of depression may have difficulty socializing, going to work, or feeling happy at all. People in depressive episodes often feel tired, hopeless, and unable to concentrate, and they typically experience changes in their weight and sleep cycle. There are several types of depressive disorders recognized by mental health professionals.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also called Unipolar Disorder or Clinical Depression, is when a person has both emotional and physical symptoms of depression (see box). To qualify as a major depressive episode, the symptoms must last for at least two weeks, during which time there is either depressed mood or the loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. More about Major Depressive Disorder...

Common Symptoms of Depression

  • Depressed (sad) mood
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in activities
  • Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation or psychomotor retardation (moving very slowly)
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished concentration, or indecisiveness
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Having thoughts about hurting self

Dysthymic Disorder

Some people can function at work and relate to others, but seldom if ever, feel happy. These people may have a low mood for months or years, and consider this a part of their personality. This is called Dysthymic Disorder. It is possible to have both Dysthymic Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, which is sometimes termed Double Depression.

Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorder, once called "manic depression," is defined by alternating extreme "poles" of emotion, with periods of mania and periods of depression. A manic episode is a period during which there is an abnormal and persistently elevated, expansive (or irritable) mood. People in manic episodes often feel "too good." They are euphoric, full of energy, need little sleep, and have inflated self-esteem — all of which lead to problems in social and occupational functioning. They may go on wild shopping sprees, engage in reckless sexual behavior, and entertain delusions of grandeur. Manic episodes appear in stark contrast to major depressive episodes, which are an equal and opposite component of bipolar disorder. With Bipolar Disorder, the high of mania is always followed by a depressive low.

People experiencing at least one manic and one major depressive episode may be diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder. There is also a diagnosis called Bipolar II Disorder where a person suffers from major depressive episodes and hypomania rather than manic episodes. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. A person with bouts of hypomania and dysthymia would be diagnosed with Cyclothymic Disorder.

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