How to Spot the Signs of a Mood Disorder

Mental illness is incredibly common in the UK. At least one in five people has or is going to suffer from a mental health challenge at some point in their lives. As with other types of illnesses, early intervention is the best way to treat a mood disorder.

Unfortunately, many mood disorders are not diagnosed until the person has suffered from them for years. Some mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, are often misdiagnosed, resulting in even more time passing between the onset of symptoms and the administration of proper treatment. Learning the signs and symptoms of common mood disorders is the best way to help those in your life.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

It is normal to feel sad or down from time to time, but when these symptoms become severe or last a while, without going away, it is time to visit a healthcare professional. The warning signs and symptoms that someone you know may be dealing with depression include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and pessimism
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things and making decisions
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Irritability
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches and pains that do not go away
  • Suicidal thoughts

One of the biggest symptoms of depression is a loss of interest in things that once were enjoyable, such as hobbies, seeing friends and even having sex.

Symptoms that last longer than two weeks and do not get better should be treated as soon as possible. If you cannot find a healthcare professional, speak with a counsellor or call a helpline to find out about emergency mental health care services.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar is characterised by experiencing extreme highs and lows in mood. The lows are typically associated with depression, which is why the disease is misdiagnosed so often. In fact, people who have bipolar disorder tend to experience the exact same symptoms as those with major depressive disorder when they are experiencing depressive episodes.

However, the highs are way beyond those associated with normal human joy. A person who is in the middle of a manic episode may show the following signs:

  • Excessive energy and an overly good mood
  • Irritability and impatience with others
  • Racing thoughts
  • Fast talking
  • Little need for sleep
  • Careless spending
  • Engaging in risky behaviours, such as unsafe sex

A bipolar episode typically happens when symptoms are experienced for longer than a week. While safety is a huge concern for those in the middle of a manic episode, it is not the biggest concern. Most people who experience mania soon crash into a depressive episode that can be incredibly dangerous.

Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is associated with the seasons. Most people with SAD start experiencing symptoms around early autumn and endure them throughout the winter months.

This goes beyond mere ‘winter blues’ and requires treatment if a person is going to make it through. The signs and symptoms of SAD typically include:

  • Feeling depressed for most of the day, every day
  • Loss of interest in activities throughout the winter months
  • Sleep issues
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overeating
  • Craving foods that are high in carbohydrates or sugar
  • Persistent tiredness and lack of energy

Many people who have SAD find light exposure therapy with a UV light to be particularly helpful in relieving their symptoms.

How You Can Help

If you notice any of the above signs and symptoms in someone you know or care about, your first step should be to encourage them to seek medical treatment or to access counselling services.

You may also want to contact the NHS or another helpline to find out more about the disorder and to get specific resources that you can pass on.

It is also important to make sure that the person knows that they are not alone and that you are there for them. Even if you have never experienced a mood disorder yourself, you can let them know that you are there to listen if they want to talk. Be careful to avoid dismissive language or behaving as though a call to a helpline is the cure.

You can also spend some time learning about the types of concerns people may have regarding seeking treatment. There is a huge stigma surrounding mental illness, even today, which can discourage people from getting the help they need. Being familiar with these concerns in advance can give you the tools you need to work with the sufferer to find ways to overcome them.

Treatments for Mood Disorders

Sometimes, people are worried about getting help because they do not know what to expect. Many have outdated beliefs regarding antidepressants and talk therapy and have the misconception that these treatments may change their personalities or be scary.

Being able to provide accurate, albeit general, information regarding the type of treatment that those with mental health issues can expect to receive is often very helpful.

In most cases, a combination of medication and talk therapy are used, especially in the early stages of diagnosis. Talk therapy, certain medications and lifestyle changes are often the best treatment options available. Modern medications do not have the same ‘zombie effect’ as those of the past. In fact, many are easily tolerated, with little to no side effects.

When combining this treatment with regular visits to a doctor or counsellor, a sufferer can live a stable life, despite having a mental health issue.

When someone you care about is suffering, it is only natural to want to do whatever you can do to help. Learning about the signs and symptoms of various mood disorders is the perfect first step. This information can help you direct your loved one to the right resources, ensuring that they get the help they need as soon as possible.

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