Mood Disorder Treatments
Mood disorders are a category of psychiatric illnesses that feature prolonged, pervasive emotional disturbance. A mood disorder does not refer to the everyday emotional ups and downs everyone experiences, but instead involves a serious change in mood that cause disruption to life activities. Illnesses under the umbrella of mood disorders include major depressive disorder and other forms of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and trauma.
The psychiatrists, psychologists and other trained mental health clinicians at University Hospitals work with patients to properly assess and diagnose mood disorders, and develop a plan to treat and manage their condition. Mood disorder treatments may include psychotherapy and medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs.
Major depression is the most common mood disorder. It is characterized by a constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest, and can severely impact a person’s life. It is a persistent problem that can last for several months, in contrast to temporary mood fluctuations brought on by everyday life. While some people with depression may experience only one episode of major depression in a lifetime, most endure multiple episodes. Other depressive disorders include dysthymia (a milder form of persistent depression), postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Signs and symptoms of depression include depressed mood, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, reduced interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in appetite, sleep problems, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts.
Diagnosis of depression starts with a consultation with a doctor or mental health specialist. This evaluation will likely include a physical exam to look for any underlying conditions, as well as taking a mental health history or assessment to determine length and severity of symptoms.
Depression is a treatable mental illness. The most common forms of depression treatment include psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and antidepressants. Additionally, treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and ketamine infusion may be used to mitigate the symptoms of depression in certain situations.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Bipolar disorder is a serious psychiatric condition that causes extreme, unexpected shifts in a person’s mood and energy levels. People with bipolar disorder experience severe manic episodes, as well as episodes of depression. These episodes may last several weeks or even months, often with periods of stability in between. When a person is experiencing mania or hypermania, they may feel wired, euphoric, exaggerated self-confidence, excessive talking, racing thoughts, sense of distraction and impaired judgment. During a period of depression, they may feel extreme sadness and a sense of hopelessness and may suffer from sleeping problems, fatigue, anxiety and other symptoms of depression. Hallucinations and psychosis may occur in some people during both manic and depressive episodes.
If left untreated, bipolar disorder may have a detrimental effect on a person’s relationships, schooling, career and may even lead to suicidal thoughts. In order for a healthcare provider to make a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the person must meet certain criteria for mania and depression with symptoms that have lasted at least seven days or less if symptoms were severe enough to need hospitalization. The doctor may carry out a physical examination and some diagnostic tests, including blood and urine tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.
Bipolar disorder treatment may include a combination of therapies, such as medication management and psychotherapy. The most commonly prescribed drug for bipolar disorder is lithium, which can treat long-term episodes of depression or mania. Other medications may include anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. Psychotherapy is beneficial in helping patients recognize and manage their symptoms, prevent relapses, and maintain balance in their relationships, careers and other areas of life. Other options include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and ketamine infusion, which may help if other treatments are not effective.
Anxiety is a natural emotion with adaptive functioning and indicates how well a person handles common stress in life. When it becomes exaggerated, irrational and interferes with one's everyday, it can be classified as an anxiety disorder. That is when panic attacks can occur. Panic attack symptoms include intense fear, worry, palpitations and shortness of breath. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses, and the distress they cause can keep you from carrying on with your life normally. Anxiety treatment is commonly administered and tailored to each patient through therapy and medication.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Panic disorder: Characterized by panic attacks, symptoms of which may include intense fear, worry, palpitations and shortness of breath
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Excessive and unrealistic worry or anxiety encompassing two or more areas of their life
- Specific phobias: Intense and irrational fears of specific situations or objects (e.g., fear of flying or heights) that can be disruptive to everyday life
- Social anxiety: Overwhelming self-consciousness in social situations, in which a person fears being judged or rejected by others
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations, or obsessions, and behaviors that drive them to do something repeatedly
Our team of mental health professionals at UH assess and treat anxiety disorders through treatments that may include a combination of behavioral and cognitive therapy, psychotherapy and medication management.
Trauma disorders are a group of conditions that result from exposure to extremely stressful or traumatic events. These disorders can cause fear, anxiety, stress, panic and other strong negative emotions. They can also trigger episodes such as nightmares and flashbacks. Disorders in this category include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder and adjustment disorders.
Left untreated, trauma disorders can be very destructive to a person’s life. However, trauma disorders are manageable through consistent work with a trained mental health professional. Trauma treatment can include psychotherapy, such as cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy. Medication management is also commonly used, specifically through drugs that affect the neurotransmitters serotonin or norepinephrine (SSRIs and SNRIs), as well as antidepressants, antipsychotics and beta-blockers.