Other Types of Mood Disorders

Dysthymic disorder and cyclothymic disorder are separate diagnoses that describe chronic forms of depression and mania, respectively. In these expressions of these mood disorders, the symptoms may be harder to diagnosis because the symptoms begin at an early age and tend to “fester” over time. Parents may mistake the symptoms as simply a part of the child’s “personality,” delaying diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What is a mood disorder?

Mood disorders or affective disorders are the terms mental health professionals use to describe behavioral problems that can include depression and/or mania.
The DSM-IV (used by psychiatrists and psychologists), defines mood disorders according to certain criteria. The four types of mood disorders that are most common are:

Major Depressive Disorder
Dysthymic Disorder
Bipolar Disorder
Cyclothymic Disorder

For a diagnosis, a person must exhibit five or more symptoms related to the disorder. These can be observed by others or a subjective report by the person suffering from the disorder.

Major Depressive Disorder: Five or more symptoms for at least 2 weeks, and one of the symptoms is (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. The other symptoms can be: depressed mood most of the day (in adolescents, this may express itself as irritability); markedly diminished interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed; significant weight loss or gain when not on a diet, or increase/decrease in appetite; insomnia or sleeping too much most days; agitated or “slowed down” motor skills (observable by others); fatigue or no energy nearly every day; feelings of being worthless; inability to concentrate or indecisive; recurring thoughts about dying or suicidal ideation (with or without a plan); symptoms cause social, or in the case of adolescents, academic impairment; symptoms are not cause by alcohol or drug use; symptoms are not due to a significant event (death, family breakup, traumatic event).

Bipolar Disorder: This disorder shows both signs of depression and manic episodes. A manic episode can vary in intensity from a euphoric state to irritability to grandiosity and paranoia. During manic episodes, the sufferer often needs little or no sleep and seems extremely elated. A manic episode is often followed by a depressive episode. A manic episode is defined by the presence of a period of time during which the person suffers from a persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood that last 1 week or more, plus three or more of the following symptoms: inflated self-esteem or grandiosity; decreased need for sleep; more talkative than usual; racing thoughts; excessive distractibility; increased goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation; excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that may cause negative consequences (spending money, sexual activity, high-risk behaviors). The symptoms significantly impact the person’s social (or in the case of a teen, academic) functioning and are not attributable to drug or alcohol use.