Friday, January 11, 2013

Affective Mood Disorders: Introduction

I am changing gears this year by beginning a long series of articles on Affective Mood Disorders. This psychiatric category covers a lot of ground and includes all types of depression and bipolar disorders.

This topic touches close to home for me since several members of my extended family have struggled with depression, particularly my father.

My father and grandmother
Dad was a hard-working farmer. He had a strong work ethic and put in long hours in the fields and barn. Dad, however, struggled with Major Depression, or possibly a type of Bipolar Disorder. Periodically he became moody. His outlook seemed dark, and he would made comments that indicated he entertained the idea of suicide. These bouts often lasted for months. I remember tentatively checking out what frame of mind he was in when he came in from working outside. Would he be warm and friendly? Or, emotionally remote and irritable? My quick assessment would shift how I approached him. Sometimes it seemed easier to leave him alone than to deal with his mood.

Dad wasn’t the only one in the family who experienced depression. My paternal grandmother (his mother) also struggled with it. Sometimes when I visited Grandma I would find her sitting in a dark house with all the lights off. She would seem discouraged. Depression usually made her pessimistic about life in general.

Affective Mood Disorders are unfortunately a common illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately twenty-one million Americans, or about 9.5 percent of the US populations, ages 18 and older, have a mood disorder. The prevalence rate is higher for women than men.

Through the years there have been others in my extended family who have struggled with a mood disorder. This isn't unusual since Affective Mood Disorders also have a strong genetic component. Studies have shown that heritability (or in other words, one’s genetics) for this condition accounts for between 40 to 50 percent of all cases.

During the upcoming months I will discuss various types of mood disorder conditions, including Depression and its sub types  Bipolar Disorder Type 1 and 2, and Peri-natal Mood Disorders (formerly called Postpartum Depression). I will explore the many facets and aspects of these illnesses, such as, what are the symptoms of each? When is someone the most vulnerable to these conditions? And, what are the latest treatments?

The next article will kick off this series by starting out with a look at the various types of depression.

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