Learning About Mood Disorders

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What are mood disorders?

Mood disorders are medical problems that affect how you feel. They can impact your moods, thoughts, and actions. Mood disorders include:

  • Depression. This causes you to feel sad or hopeless for much of the time.
  • Bipolar disorder. This causes extreme mood changes from manic episodes of very high energy to extreme lows of depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that affects you during the same season each year. Most often people experience SAD during the fall and winter months when days are shorter and there is less light.

What are the symptoms?


You may:

  • Feel sad or hopeless nearly every day.
  • Lose interest in or not get pleasure from most daily activities. You feel this way nearly every day.
  • Have low energy, changes in your appetite, or changes in how well you sleep.
  • Have trouble concentrating.
  • Think about death and suicide. Keep the number for your nurse call line or your provincial suicide prevention hotline on or near your phone. If you or someone you know talks about suicide or feeling hopeless, get help right away.

Bipolar disorder

Symptoms depend on your mood swings. You may:

  • Feel very happy, energetic, or on edge.
  • Feel like you need very little sleep.
  • Feel overly self-confident.
  • Do impulsive things, such as spending a lot of money.
  • Feel sad or hopeless.
  • Have racing thoughts or trouble thinking and making decisions.
  • Lose interest in things you have enjoyed in the past.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. For most people with SAD, symptoms come during the winter when there is less daylight. You may:

  • Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.
  • Lose interest in your usual activities.
  • Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
  • Gain weight.
  • Sleep more and feel drowsy during the daytime.

How are mood disorders treated?

Mood disorders can be treated with counselling or medicines, or a combination of both.

Counselling may involve cognitive-behavioural therapy. It teaches you how to change the ways you think and behave. This can help you stop thinking bad thoughts about yourself and your life.

Medicines for depression and SAD may include antidepressants.

Medicines for bipolar disorder may include:

  • Mood stabilizers.
  • Antipsychotics.
  • Benzodiazepines.

Light therapy is the main treatment for SAD. This therapy uses a special kind of lamp. You let the lamp shine on you at certain times, usually in the morning. This may help your symptoms during the months when there is less sunlight.

Healthy lifestyle

Healthy lifestyle changes may help you feel better.

  • Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains in your diet each day.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try for 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Find ways to manage stress, such as relaxation exercises.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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