Affective Disorders Overview
Affective disorders are a set
of psychiatric diseases, also called mood disorders. The main types of
affective disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder. Symptoms vary by
individual, but they typically affect mood. They can range from mild to severe.
A psychiatrist or other
trained mental health professional can diagnose an affective disorder. This is
done with a psychiatric evaluation. Affective disorders can be disruptive to
your life. However, there are effective treatments available, including both
medication and psychotherapy.
Types of Affective Disorders
The three main types of
affective disorders are: depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder. Each
includes subtypes and variations in severity.
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is
characterized by feelings of extreme sadness and hopelessness. It is more than
simply feeling down for a day or two. If you have depression, you may
experience episodes that last for several days or even weeks. A milder form of
depression is called dysthymia.
means having periods of depression, and
periods of mania. Mania is when you
feel extremely positive and active. This may sound good, but mania also makes
you feel irritable, aggressive, impulsive, and even delusional. There are
different types of bipolar, classified by the severity of depression and mania,
as well as by how often mood swings occur.
There are several
different types of anxiety disorders. All are characterized by feelings of
nervousness, anxiety, and even fear. They are:
- social anxiety: anxiety caused by social situations
- post-traumatic stress disorder: anxiety, fear, and flashbacks caused by a traumatic
- generalized anxiety disorder: anxiousness and fear in general, with no particular
- panic disorder: anxiety that causes panic attacks
- obsessive-compulsive disorder: obsessive thoughts that cause anxiety and compulsive
Symptoms of Affective Disorders
The symptoms of affective
disorders can vary greatly. There are some common signs, however, for each of
the three main types.
- irritability or
- lethargy and
lack of energy
- lack of interest
in normal activities
- major changes in
eating and sleeping habits
- feelings of
- aches and pains
that have no physical explanation
- unusual and
chronic mood swings
depression, symptoms similar to those for major depressive disorder
- during mania, less
sleep and feelings of exaggerated self-confidence, irritability, aggression,
self-importance, impulsiveness, recklessness, or in severe cases delusions or
- constant worry
- shortness of
breath and rapid heart rate
Causes of Affective Disorders
The causes of affective
disorders are not fully understood. Neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, play
a major role in affecting mood. When they are imbalanced in some way, or do not
signal properly in the brain, an affective disorder can be the result. What
causes the imbalance is not fully known.
Life events can trigger
affective disorders. A traumatic event or personal loss can cause depression or
another affective disorder, but it may not be permanent. Use of alcohol and
drugs is also a risk factor.
There also seems to be a
genetic factor. If someone in your family has one of these disorders, you are
at a greater risk for developing one as well. This means that they are
hereditary. However, you are not guaranteed to have an affective disorder just
because a family member has one.
Diagnosis of Affective Disorders
There are no medical tests to
diagnose affective disorders. To make a diagnosis, a psychiatrist or other
trained mental health professional can give you a psychiatric evaluation. They
follow set guidelines. Expect to be asked about your symptoms.
Treatments for Affective Disorders
There are two main treatments
for affective disorders: medication and
therapy. Treatment usually involves
a combination of both. There are many different antidepressant medications
available. You may need to try several before you find one that helps relieve
your symptoms without too many side effects.
Psychotherapy in addition to
medication is also an important part of treatment for affective disorders. It
can help you learn to cope with your disorder and help change your behaviors
that contribute to it.
Outlook for Affective Disorders
With appropriate and
long-term treatment, the outlook for having an affective disorder is good. It
is important to understand that, in most cases, these are chronic conditions that
have to be treated over the long-term. While some cases are severe, most people
with affective disorders who are using treatment can live a normal life.