Affective Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Affective Disorders

What is an affective disorder?

There are many different types of psychiatric disorders that are referred to as affective disorders.

Depression and bipolar disorder are the two main types of affective disorders. The severity of symptoms varies from individual to individual.

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can diagnose affective disorders. Psychological evaluations are used for this purpose.

You might experience a disruption in your life due to an affective disorder. Nonetheless, both medication and psychotherapy are effective treatments for this condition.

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Types of affective disorders

Bipolar disorder and depression are the two most common types of affective disorders. Each subtype and severity variation has its own subtype.


The medical term depression describes feelings of hopelessness and sadness over an extended period of time. The problem extends beyond feeling down for several days at a time.

Depressive episodes can last a few days or even a few weeks if you have the disorder.

Over 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression in various ways, which can take many forms.

Depressions are classified as follows:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): A common disorder that includes low mood, fatigue, hopelessness, and other symptoms that last for a long time. MDD is formerly known as clinical depression.
  • Persistent depressive disorder: It occurs when minor depression symptoms persist for at least two years and are often called dysthymia.
  • Major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns: Winter months are the most common time of year for this subtype of depression, commonly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Additionally, females experience depression due to hormonal changes associated with various life stages.

Depressions during pregnancy and after giving birth include perinatal depression and postpartum depression. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) may also cause depression in women.

Postpartum depression can also occur in men, but the severity is not the same as in women.

It is also possible for depression to develop secondary to another medical condition. Here are some of the issues:

  • Chronic pain syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Heart disease
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

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Bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder suffer from extreme mood swings. You may experience episodes of depression, in addition to mania or hypomania.

Bipolar disorder comes in different forms. A few of them are:

  • Bipolar I: The symptoms of bipolar I am episodes of mania lasting at least 7 days. There is also a possibility of depressive episodes lasting 2 weeks or longer, although this condition is not known to cause depression.
  • Bipolar II: Hypomania is a form of depression that lasts at least 2 weeks along with mild episodes of depression.
  • Cyclothymia: There is still depression and hypomania in this mild form of bipolar disorder, but there is no clear timeline for each episode. Cyclothymia is also called cyclothymic disorder if you experience bipolar disorder and hypomania for more than two years.

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Symptoms of affective disorders

An affective disorder can present with many different symptoms. However, there are some signs common to all three types.


  • Prolonged sadness
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lack of energy and lethargy
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Sleep and eating habits change dramatically
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Aches and pains that have no physical explanation
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Unusual and chronic mood changes

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Bipolar disorder

An episode of depression may look similar to that of major depression. Mania can cause you to experience the following symptoms:

  • Sleeping less
  • Exaggerated self-confidence
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Self-importance
  • Impulsiveness
  • Recklessness
  • Delusions or hallucinations

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Causes of affective disorders

We don’t fully understand the causes of affective disorders.

The brain chemicals neurotransmitters play a crucial role in mood regulation. Affective disorders can result when your hormones are imbalanced in some way or don’t communicate properly to your brain. There is no clear explanation for exactly why the imbalance occurs.

Affective disorders can be caused by adverse events in life. Depression and other affective disorders can result from traumatic events or personal losses. Drug and alcohol use may also pose a risk.

Genetics may also play a role. You are at a greater risk for developing one of these disorders if you have someone in your family who has them. Their hereditary nature implies that they’ve inherited.

Just because someone in your family has an affective disorder does not mean that you will too.

Diagnosis of affective disorders

Affective disorders cannot be diagnosed with medical tests.

Psychologists can provide you with an evaluation so they can diagnose you. Set guidelines will govern their actions.

Symptoms will be discussed with you. You may need to have certain tests done to rule out underlying conditions.

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Affective Disorder

Treatments for affective disorders

Affective disorders can be treated with medication or therapy. Usually, both of these treatment options are used together.

Antidepressant medications are available in many forms. It may take several attempts before you find a medication that helps relieve the symptoms and does not have a lot of side effects.

Treatment includes both medication and psychotherapy. Your disorder can be managed through it and possibly changed but possibly by changing your behaviors that contribute to it.

There are supplemental approaches that can be used to treat certain forms of depression along with therapy and medication. Supplements such as vitamin D and lamps that emit light are two examples.

For over-the-counter supplements, consult your physician.

The doctor may also prescribe lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, proper sleep schedules, and healthy eating habits. Medical treatments should not be supplanted by these, but these can help them.

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Outlook for affective disorders

An affective disorder can be treated effectively and successfully with long-term treatment.

It is important to understand that these conditions are generally chronic. The majority of the time, they require long-term treatment.

Some cases of affective disorders are severe, but most people who receive treatment can lead a normal life.

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