Affective Disorders: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What is Affective Disorder?

Affective disorders are mental disorders that are characterized by dramatic changes and extremes of mood. The symptoms of the affective disorder can vary from mild to severe and can be diagnosed with a psychiatric evaluation. It can disrupt life and should be treated at the earliest.

Causes Of Affective Disorder

The causes of affective disorder is not fully understood. It can be a result of neurotransmitters in the brain not working properly. An imbalance in neurotransmitters affects the signals that are sent to the brain causing affective disorders.

Certain life events can trigger affective disorders such as traumatic events, personal loss, or another affective disorder.

Genetic factors can also play a role in the occurrence of affective disorder. If someone in the family is suffering from it, a person is at a greater risk of getting it.

Types of Affective Disorders

Affective disorders are of two main types:

Depression

Depression is a term for feelings such as sadness and hopelessness. A person under depression feels sad for more than a day or two. There may be episodes that may last for several days.

More than 264 million people worldwide are known to suffer from depression.(1)

Depression is of the following subtypes.

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): It involves long term or persistent episodes of low mood, hopelessness and fatigue.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: This type is also known as dysthymia and is characterized by less severe depression symptoms for at least 2 years.

Major Depressive Disorder With Seasonal Patterns: This depressive disorder occurs mostly in the winter months when there is less daylight. It is also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Sometimes depression is also seen affecting females in various stages of their life, due to hormonal changes. Depression can also occur as a secondary condition to various medical issues such as diabetes, thyroid disease, chronic pain syndrome, multiple sclerosis, lupus, heart disease, rheumatoid disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a type of affective disorder where a person experiences extremes of mood.

There may be periods of depression, along with periods of mania and hypomania.

Different types of bipolar disorder include:

  • Bipolar 1: In this type, the episodes of mania last for at least 7 days. There may also be depressive episodes that last for 2 weeks or more.
  • Bipolar 2: This type includes episodes of depression lasting for at least 2 weeks along with mild mania (hypomania).
  • Cyclothymia: This is a mild form of bipolar disorder and includes episodes of depression and hypomania, but with no clear time.

Symptoms of Affective Disorder

The symptoms of affective disorder vary greatly.

In a depressive type of affective disorder the symptoms are as follows:

In the bipolar type of affective disorders the symptoms presented by the patients are:

Diagnosis and Treatment of Affective Disorders

Affective disorders are diagnosed with a psychiatric evaluation. The health professional would ask questions and would also advise tests to look for any medical condition if present.

Medication and therapy are the two main treatments of affective disorders. It can be either of the two or a combination of both.

Medications involve antidepressants. Psychotherapy in addition to medication is an important part of the treatment. It can help a person cope with the disorder and change in behaviors that contribute to it.

In addition to therapy and medication, supplement approach that includes vitamin D supplements and light therapy can help.

There may be a certain lifestyle and diet changes that might be advised by the doctor, as these compliments the treatments.

With appropriate and long-term treatment, recovery can be quick.