When an individual suffers from a mood disorder, her ability to function and lead a productive and full life may suffer. Some emotional shifts are normal, especially as a reaction to current events, such as the death of a loved one. However, if the individual experiences depression that lingers with no obvious cause, or elation that seems out of balance with her life, she may have a mood disorder. According to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, mood disorders fall into two classifications, bipolar or depressive.
Unexplained sadness that affects a person's ability to complete normal daily tasks is present in some mood disorders. Depression may be linked to a woman's menstrual cycle, and it may affect her sexual health as well as her ability to concentrate. When depression becomes severe, the patient's mood may be one of despair, worthlessness and despondency. Physical symptoms may include weight loss or a slumped appearance, with sad facial expressions.
In bipolar patients, a cycle of elation and depression may occur. This cycle is called mania. The individual may experience an unrealistic feeling of elation with accompanying signs of exuberance, talkativeness and a racing mental process, followed by a cycle of depression. Although patients prefer mania to depression, they may exhibit reckless behavior during manic periods that puts them in danger.
More than five mental symptoms that last longer than two weeks may indicate severe depression. However, if the mood disorder lasts less than two weeks and the individual experiences fewer than five mental symptoms, the depression may be mild. A manic cycle lasts longer than one week and the patient experiences more than three symptoms.
Abusing alcohol or other drugs, including prescription medications and illicit drugs, may be a symptom of a mood disorder as well as a catalyst for more intense emotional symptoms. In addition, the individual may experience depression as a symptom of withdrawal from drugs.
The risk of suicide is higher in individuals who suffer from a mood disorder, according the Merck Manual. Along with deep demoralizing emotions, thoughts of suicide may be frequent. The patient may or may not verbalize his feelings. Reactions to some treatment methods, including drugs that regulate serotonin and other antidepressants, may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in some patients, especially children.