Sad and happy feelings are a normal part of life. It is natural to feel happy with positive experiences and to experience unhappiness with sad events. However, people who struggle with a mood disorder may often experience severe moods which may be out of proportion or in some cases have very little to do with their immediate experiences.
People suffering from depression go through periods of intense sadness and gloom. They may feel helpless and worthless. They may struggle with motivation and with enjoying anything. They may also struggle with thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
People suffering from a manic mood may experience extreme elation and an inflated sense of themselves. They may find that they have a lot more energy than usual and feel able to go without sleep. They may take on various commitments, including various projects but have difficulties getting things done. They may also find themselves making decisions that are impulsive and out of character which they would later come to regret.
It is also possible to suffer a mixture of depressed and manic mood. In such a situation, a person may experience a combination of extreme despair together with increased energy and activity.
In some extreme episodes of a mood disorder, a person may also have the experience that their perception of reality is altered in an alarming way. They may develop unusual and irrational beliefs about themselves or others, or they may see and hear things without having anyone or anything to account for their perceptions.
People who experience depressive and manic moods could be suffering from an underlying bipolar affective disorder. There are different types of bipolar affective disorder. The type of bipolar disorder depends on whether a depressed or manic mood is more prominent, and on the intensity, frequency and duration of each individual episode. The type of mood disorder can be diagnosed through a psychiatric assessment and would determine what sort of treatment is more appropriate.
The exact cause of bipolar affective disorder is not known. People can be born with a susceptibility to developing this condition. However extreme changes in mood can be triggered in certain situations, such as with stressful events, certain psychoactive substances like drugs and alcohol and physical illness.
Treatment of a mood disorder will depend on the type of mood disorder present. People can benefit from medication which can help to stabilise mood or treat a manic or depressive illness. Treatment may also involve identifying and avoiding known triggers (e.g. in the case of psychoactive substances) or learning to cope with other things which aggravate a mood disorder; for example developing an awareness and ability to deal with certain stressful situations. Psychotherapy can help with this.
Our Psychiatrists at Randwick Psychiatry are available to provide specialised treatment and support for mood disorders. Please contact us to arrange a consultation.
If you have concerns that you or someone you know has a mental health condition and that there are serious immediate concerns for that person’s safety, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Emergency help can be accessed through your nearest hospital or by dialling ‘000’ in Australia.