Affective disorders: Symptoms, test and therapy


Affective disorders are a group of different disorders in which the affect, ie the mood, is severely impaired. These include depression, mania, hypomania, cyclothymia and dysthymia.

The affected persons show either an unusually increased or a very depressed affect. An aggravated affect is known as mania, in which the sufferer is so upbeat that it seems inappropriate to the situation. A lighter expression of mania is called hypomania.

Depression, mania, dysthymia: forms of mood disorder

In contrast, the depression is : The affected suffer here in a depressed mood, loss of interest, joylessness and a reduction in the drive. Depression, as well as mania, can occur in varying degrees of severity.

It can also happen that the two extremes of upscale and depressed moods alternate. This is called bipolar disorder.

Most affective disorders are characterized by a sudden onset and an equally sudden disappearance . However, there are also cases in which people with an affective disorder have a persistent mood disorder.

Cyclothymia is a persistent instability of mood (change between high mood and depression), while dysthymia is characterized by a chronic depressive mood.

Women are more likely to suffer from depression

The risk of developing an affective disorder during life is around one to three percent . The depressive illnesses are by far the most common. About 65 percent of cases of mood disorders are depression, while bipolar events account for only 30 percent, and manic illnesses as little as five percent of total cases.

Women are significantly more affected by depression than men. In bipolar disorders no gender differences could be found.

Affective Disorders: What Symptoms Are There?

Because the mood disorders summarize a number of different diseases, the symptoms are also very different. Depressive episodes are expressed in a depressed mood, joylessness, loss of interest and a reduction of the drive. As a result, sufferers significantly neglect their activities in these episodes. They tire very quickly and often can not concentrate well.

At the same time, people with depressive moods feel worthless and often have very negative or pessimistic future prospects. Self-esteem decreases and guilt can be felt. Often, these symptoms are accompanied by insomnia , decreased appetite or even suicidal thoughts .

As with manic episodes, the severity varies considerably from case to case. Thus, the disease in just a single episode (at least two weeks) express themselves, in other cases, however, the depression is always or return the sufferer are consistently depressed.

Recognizing Bipolar Disorder: Typical Signs

The bipolar disorder is characterized by a change of mood of those affected . Episodes of significantly depressed mood alternate with episodes in which the sufferers have a very good mood and an increased drive and activity. Manic episodes in bipolar disorder are usually shorter (two weeks to five months) than the depressive phases (approximately six months).

In mania, three different degrees of severity are given. However, all of them are upbeat and have an increase in the extent and speed of physical and mental activity.

The easiest manifestation of mania is hypomania. Individuals with this disease severity will experience a persistently mildly uplifted mood, increased drive and activity, and a conspicuous sense of well-being and physical and mental performance.

Other signs may be increased sociability, talkativeness, excessive confidentiality, increased libido, and a diminished need for sleep. Concerned people can concentrate less well and are inattentive and often have trouble settling down. All this, however, is in an acceptable level.

It is worse with mania both with and without psychotic symptoms. The complaints show up to such an extent that the behavior of those affected is considered to be absolutely inappropriate for the respective situation. If the mania is accompanied by psychotic symptoms, overconfidence and the frequently occurring ideas of grandeur can lead to a veritable delusion (for example paranoid delusions).

Finally, cyclothymia and dysthymia are among the persistent affective disorders . Cyclothymia describes persistent mood instability with numerous periods of mild depression and mildly upset mood, but not severe enough to be classified as bipolar or depressive disorder.

Genes and Co .: What Causes Behind Affective Disorders?

Affective disorders can have many causes. Often, especially in bipolar disorders, the disease is inherited. If both parents have bipolar disease, then the children are at risk of developing 50 percent of their bipolar disorder.

Psychosocial factors can also play a significant role in the development of an affective disorder. By this one understands for example critical life events or a strong psychological load by the environment.

In other cases, the disease can be attributed to certain personality factors (for example melancholic personality type). However, there are no reliable findings.

Tests for the diagnosis of affective disorders

For the diagnosis of affective disorders, a detailed discussion with a doctor or psychotherapist is necessary. This not only asks the existing symptoms, but deals extensively with the history of the disease.

Decisive for the respective diagnosis of an affective disorder are the severity and duration of the complaints. Hypomania can be diagnosed on some days of elevated or altered mood.

A manic phase is not diagnosed until several symptoms such as inappropriate mood, euphoria or irritability, increased drive, Speech, reduced need for sleep or megalomania occur for at least a week. Also, the symptoms must be so pronounced that it affects the professional and social functioning.

A bipolar affective disorder is usually diagnosed late: most people are treated for their depression because they do not experience the manic episodes as pathological. The manic episodes are then often later in the course of treatment by verbose discussions or speaking with relatives on.

Therapy: Affective disorders are not only medically treated

Treatment approaches to mood disorders are roughly divided into two categories, namely pharmacological and psychological therapies . Both types of therapy can also be meaningfully combined.

In severe depression, treatment with antidepressants is usually unavoidable. However, the treatment should be tailored to the individual in order to minimize the various side effects.

In the case of mania, the affected person usually does not experience his illness as requiring treatment, since the symptoms of the elevated mood and of the increased level of activity are rated rather as positive. However, if it comes to a treatment, as in the case of depression, drugs are used that cause a change in the brain metabolism.

Likewise, the bipolar disorder is also treated by medication. In addition, psychotherapeutic procedures can be used.

Course and disease phases

Very many sufferers experience only a single episode of Affective Disorders in their lives. However, it may also happen that the disorder is not limited to a single episode but has a phased history, that is, the episodes repeat. In dysthymia and cyclothymia the disorder is even present throughout.

Not immune to relapses

A drug therapy usually allows the symptoms to completely subside. However, the risk of relapse is given when the antidepressants are discontinued.

Is it possible to prevent mood disorders?

Since affective disorders are of a genetic nature among other things, it is currently not possible to prevent the disease. However, triggers of individual episodes of affective disorders are often distressing events.

Therefore, it can be helpful to keep those affected away from enormous stress and strain and to provide a pleasant social environment. Furthermore, early signs of affective disorder should be taken early, as early intervention can significantly reduce the severity of the symptoms.