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Affective Disorders: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

affective disorder symptoms

Affective disorders result in anxiety, depression, and other serious mental health struggles. If you find that your mood interferes with your mental health, you might be one of the approximated 10% of U.S. adults impacted by a mood disorder each year.

Below you will find more information on these wide range of symptoms as well as proven treatment approaches for affective disorders.

What Are Affective Disorders?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) defines affective disorders (also known as mood disorders) as impactful changes in a patient’s affect or emotions. These disorders significantly alter how patients feel and respond to intense emotions.

Mental health professionals widely use the term “affective disorders” (or mood disorders). Doctors coined this spectrum of affective disorders as a way to describe the types of depression and bipolar disorders.

Patients with affective disorders might experience symptoms from the following:

  • Major depressive disorders
  • Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD)
  • Manic depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

Treating these types of affective disorders can often feel overwhelming or even impossible. However, there are many new approaches to treatment for all of these mood disorders. Developing strategies to combat the symptoms of these disorders can help you lead a successful, stress-reduced life.

Common Symptoms in Affective Disorders

There are many affective disorders, but they often fall under four main categories: major depression, bipolar disorders, dysthymia, and mood disorders related to substance use. Symptoms of these four include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Long-lasting irritability
  • Observed periods of depression and/or mania
  • Substance use and chemical dependency

In any affective disorder, the symptoms can vary depending on the type, severity, and the patient’s access to treatment. This article will take a look at some of the most common symptoms that belong to affective disorders.

Major Depressive Disorder

If you experience feelings of deep grief, sadness, and hopelessness that last for weeks or months, you might have a form of clinical depression. Side effects can also present as persistent sleep changes (sleeping too much or bouts of insomnia), loss of interest in hobbies, and intense emotional outbursts.

Major depressive disorders have different diagnoses and labels as well. Examples include:

  • Dysthymia: The depressive disorder dysthymia is considered diagnosable when patients experience the symptoms of a depressed mood that lasts for a minimum of two years.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Symptoms of SAD are, as the name suggests, seasonal, and often appear during times of depleted sunlight, as in the winter months.
  • Postpartum depression: This disorder affects new mothers who give birth, and intensifies the traditional feelings of sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety that accompany depressive disorders.
  • Psychotic depression: In addition to depressive episodes, this disorder comes with hallucinations or delusions.

Manic depression can also be filed under major depressive disorders but is often linked to bipolar disorders due to its characteristic symptoms of periods of extreme emotional lows and highs.

Bipolar Disorder

As stated above, bipolar disorders come with the classic symptoms of periods of extreme emotional lows and highs. There are four main types of bipolar disorder, labeled as bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia), and other unspecified bipolar and related disorders. Each of these types feature manic episodes as well as depressive episodes.

Symptoms of mania might look like:

  • Sudden feelings of elation
  • Increased activity levels and high energy
  • Feelings of being jittery
  • Dangerous impulsivity such as recklessly spending money or engaging in sexual activities

Symptoms of depression, in addition to intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness, involve:

  • Lack of energy or interest in hobbies
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Suicidal ideation

If you feel as though you are a danger to yourself or others as a result of these severe moods, please seek mental health attention immediately.

Anxiety Disorder

anxiety disorder

Some examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): GAD is diagnosable in patients who experience excessive worry for six months or more.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This disorder occurs in those who have suffered from trauma, abuse, and/or neglect. PTSD is accompanied by intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and reactive symptoms to triggers.
  • Social anxiety: Depicted by intense anxiety surrounding social interaction with strangers, public speaking, or a fear of being judged.
  • Panic disorder: This disorder is characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Symptoms of panic attacks include heart palpitations, sweating, uncontrollable shaking, shortness of breath, and feelings of immense panic.

As with the other affective disorders, anxiety disorders come in a wide spectrum. However, the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders encompass feelings of nervousness, racing thoughts, and fear.

Causes of Affective Disorders

The exact cause of affective disorders cannot be precisely defined. However, many mental health professionals and other researchers believe that it is a result of both genetic and environmental factors.

For example, mood disorders can be passed down from family members who also have mental illnesses, but additional contributors (such as experiencing trauma or abuse) may also be linked to the development of these issues.

Moreover, many researchers and mental health professionals believe that mood disorders and other mental illnesses stem from a chemical imbalance. This imbalance occurs when there is an abnormal number of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that assist in nerve-cell communication.

Research shows that the chemicals that naturally produce within our brains and throughout our other bodily systems are extremely complex. In the event that any one of the twenty complex neurotransmitter systems glitches, the chances of developing conditions like affective disorders significantly increase.

This would account for the proven physiological manifestations of affective disorders. Additionally, it explains the genetic predisposition in certain patients for whom affective disorders run in the family.

Yet, the same fact holds true that, while mental illnesses can certainly be passed down throughout generations, environmental factors might act as a type of catalyst to set off the symptoms of these affective disorders.

Treatment Options

If you or a loved one struggles from an affective disorder, there are treatment options for you. Your mental health care team at Port St. Lucie Hospital will look at your family history, current symptoms, and any diagnoses you might have in order to create the best treatment plan for you.

Treatment for affective disorders depends on the type and severity in each individual case. However, treatment for these mental health struggles typically include:

  • Carefully prescribed and monitored medication (antidepressants, mood stabilizers, etc.)
  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • A combination of both psychotherapy and medication
  • In some cases, brain stimulation therapies might be recommended to directly address the chemical imbalances that contribute to the severity of the disorder

Port St. Lucie Hospital additionally offers specialized programs, such as our dual diagnosis program, for patients who are struggling with affective disorders in addition to substance use disorders.

Our Helping Hand in Treating Affective Disorders

Port St. Lucie Hospital specializes in mental health services and is located on 20 acres near the beautiful Savannas Preserve. If you or one of your loved ones struggles with a mental health disorder, we are here to help.

Our 24-hour mental health services are provided by licensed professionals in various disciplines. We tailor our programs to our patient’s needs and will help you every step of the way.

We welcome you to our facility. From support groups to individual therapy treatment options, we are here to fight the battle with you. Reach out to us online today and take our free mental health screening. You can also call us at 772-335-0400 to begin your journey toward recovery.

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