Mood and bipolar disorders

What are these disorders?

Mood can be defined as a state of mind or general inner feeling. Unlike emotions, mood is stable and long-lasting, and can persist for several days. Emotions, on the other hand, are specific (for example, jealousy, nostalgia or enthusiasm), intense and often arise in reaction to recent events. Mood falls on a continuum between positive and negative. Most people experience periods of happiness, sadness, excitement and difficulty, fluctuating slightly between positive and negative moods. Mood-related disorders fall into two categories: mood disorders and bipolar disorders.

When someone remains in a very negative, debilitating mood for a long period, we call that a mood disorder. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes three mood disorders in adults: major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.The common feature of these disorders is the presence of a sad, empty or irritable mood and a loss of interest in all activities, accompanied by cognitive and physical changes (e.g. shifts in sleep patterns, appetite or increased psychomotor agitation), which significantly affect an individual’s ability to function.

These disorders are differentiated by their duration, time of onset and origin of symptoms. It should be noted that depressive disorders can be triggered by challenging life events as well as by chemical imbalances in the brain. It is therefore important to consult a doctor or psychologist to effectively treat depression.

When a person fluctuates between the two extremes or “poles” of mood, we call this bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive psychosis or manic depression. These disproportion fluctuations are so intense that, when experiencing the positive pole, a person doesn’t realize that they are overstepping boundaries or overly excited. When they’re experiencing the negative pole, they may be paralyzed by depression.

The extremely positive pole is calledmania and its attenuated form is called hypomania. Mania is characterized by a feeling of omnipotence, increased risk taking, a quick succession of fleeting ideas, a decreased need for sleep and the simultaneous pursuit of multiple goals. Manic and depressive phases can last from a few days to several months and may be interspersed with phases of relative stability.

Currently, the DSM-5 recognizes three bipolar disorders: bipolar I, la bipolar II et le cyclothymic disorder. bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder. These disorders differ in the intensity and duration of the manic/hypomanic and depressive phases. It should be noted that bipolar disorders are generally of biological origin, resulting from chemical imbalances in the brain. However, it is possible for a difficult life event to accentuate these imbalances and trigger a manic or depressive episode.

How does this impact loved ones?

Depression is very difficult to understand and can be disturbing for the person experiencing it and those around them. It can also be challenging for family and friends to understand the pessimistic, negative, dark and biased perspective of someone living with depression. It is difficult to see a loved one denigrate themselves, be sad, withdrawn, or unable to perform simple tasks. It can also be challenging for family and friends to understand the pessimistic, negative, dark and biased perspective of someone living with depression. Depression can be onerous for family members in their attempts to lighten their loved one’s burden or compensate in other ways to help them through difficult periods. When depression becomes prolonged, it can create frustration (for example, due to the financial strain caused by an inability to work) or lead to feelings of apathy in friends and family members. Loved ones can suffer from a lack of resources, a sense of powerlessness, exhaustion and even guilt when their efforts to help fail.

Although people with depression play an important role in dealing with their disorder, they did not choose to become ill. Fortunately, certain pharmacological and psychotherapy treatments have been proven to improve depressive symptoms.

Mania can also be very difficult for family and friends when a loved one makes decisions that are out of character, acts erratically or seems out of touch with reality. Communicating with a manic person may be challenging. It can be helpful to speak quietly in an environment with few distractions. Mania can also lead to relationship issues, financial hardships (a manic person may spend excessively and impulsively), trouble at work or legal problems. These difficulties can impact the entire family in ways that must often be addressed when a person emerges from a manic phase. The disorder may also lead to hospitalization. In most cases, bipolarity can be treated with psychotherapy and medication, either separately or in combination. When a person seeks treatment, bipolarity usually can be well controlled.

What about seniors?

Bipolarity usually manifests in adolescence or early adulthood. In the elderly, bipolarity may remain in a steady, controlled trajectory, or it may become unstable.

Mood disorders,are slightler more prevalent among seniours. Although symptoms are the same at any age, a few characteristics are more specific to seniors. Older adults may complain of chronic pain or physical discomfort to hide depression. It’s also common for depressed seniors to live in the past, for example by bringing up old memories. They may talk about times in their life when they were happier, less bored and more useful. Geriatric depressionis often related to physical or social changes brought about by aging, and it is frequently trivialized or normalized. Pharmacological and psychotherapy treatments have also been shown to improve depressive symptoms among seniors.


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