Mood disorders

Even at their highest intensity, symptoms of mood disorders are often misinterpreted as merely mood swings. Worse, they are sometimes considered personality flaws rather than real medical conditions. The truth is that mood disorders are treatable medical illnesses caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biochemical and environmental factors. There are several types of mood disorders: major depressive disorder (unipolar depression); dysthymia; bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression); cyclothymia.

Bipolar disorder occurs equally in women and men, but women are twice as likely as men to experience a major depressive disorder. While the onset of these disorders can occur at any point, most individuals experience their first episode between the ages of 25 and 40.

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, and is characterized by feelings of sadness or despair that last for at least two weeks and often impair a person's ability to carry out their normal responsibilities in life. Dysthymia resembles depression but has a longer duration. Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating cycles of lows (depression) and highs (mania or hypomania). Cyclothymia is marked by cycles of low-level depression and hypomania (which is typically shorter in length and less severe than mania).
Mania is a severe medical condition characterized by extremely elevated mood, energy, unusual thought patterns and sometimes psychosis. There are several possible causes for mania including drug abuse and brain tumours, but it is most often associated with bipolar disorder, where episodes of mania may cyclically alternate with episodes of major depression.