People who don’t understand mood disorders like depression and anxiety sometimes say, “It’s all in your head”... but they’re wrong. Not only are these conditions true medical illnesses, but their effects can go far beyond the inside of someone’s head.
What causes mood disorders?
Depressive illnesses are due to chemical and other changes in the brain. A family history of mental illness may also contribute. While other factors are important, such as difficult life events or how we cope with stressful situations, depression and other mood disorders can occur in people who seem to have everything going for them.
The fact that mood disorders have a biological component means that there are treatments that can help. Although some people may think taking medication is a sign of weakness, it might be helpful to think of taking medication for your illness as similar to needing eyeglasses. You cannot control the fact that your eyesight is not perfect – but the glasses can help you function and perform daily tasks. Your depression medication may also be a tool that can help you function and get through the day – but unlike glasses, you may find you won’t need the medication after a while.
What are the symptoms of mood disorders?
Every disorder has its own unique symptoms, but some of the common symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sadness or despair that persists longer than two weeks
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, including sex
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and guilt
- Thoughts of suicide and death
Common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Excessive worry for more than half the time over a period of six months
- Easily fatigued
- Trouble concentrating or sleeping
- Feeling restless or “on edge”
Can mood disorders cause physical symptoms?
They certainly can. Depression can cause:
- A continued loss of appetite or sudden weight change
- Difficulty sleeping: either sleeping too little or too much
- Loss of energy or agitation: feeling too weak to do things or feeling restless
- A loss of sexual drive
Anxiety can also be accompanied by physical symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath and hot flashes.