Our emotions are a part of our everyday lives. Feelings of joy or sadness are common: you’ll feel happiness when you hear good news, and you’ll feel sadness when maybe the day hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. It happens to all of us! But it’s possible to have these same feelings even more intensely. Intense sadness can be seen as depression, and intense joy or elation can be seen as mania. This, in turn, characterizes various mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depressive disorders.
While we’ve come a long way in terms of what we know about mental illnesses, there are still quite a few things that most people don’t know or realize about mood disorders:
1. MOOD DISORDERS ARE PHYSICAL ILLNESSES
There are people who think that mood disorders are “all in your head” and they can be “shaken off”. Would you tell someone with diabetes to “get over it” and that it’s “all in their mind”? Of course not! The same goes for mood disorders. Researchers believe that mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are caused by a chemical imbalance in our brain, brought on by other physical illnesses, stress, hormonal changes, or even substance abuse. It’s also possible that they are genetically passed down by our family. It’s not something you catch like a cold, it’s something entirely different!
2. MOOD DISORDERS ARE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
Even though this usually happens with older individuals, mood disorders such as depression are often overlooked and written off as just another part of aging. Many older individuals feel reluctant to admit their symptoms, as well. Other times, symptoms are harder to pinpoint for a variety of reasons such as poor health and current side effects from medication they are currently experiencing.
3. THERE IS NO SINGLE PROVEN CAUSE
Researchers are unable to pinpoint a reason as to why mood disorders exist except for the fact that they’re a chemical imbalance. This is why it’s so important for people to know: no one made you like this. It is not your fault nor is it your family’s fault. It’s just how your brain is wired, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of!
4. MOOD DISORDERS CAN INCREASE RISK FOR PHYSICAL ILLNESSES
Very few know that mood disorders can actually increase a person’s risk for illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. While one does not always affect the other, researchers have found that there is a relation between the two.
5. THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO COMBAT MOOD DISORDERS
So here’s the good part: there are tons of way to battle mood disorders so you can live life to the fullest! It’s important to have a treatment plan set up with your therapist, but there are also tons of things to do on your own that can help you get to a better place. First, physical activity is great! It helps reduce anxiety and stress which can trigger these disorders. Definitely think about going for a walk or run, or if you'd like to keep it simple, you can even try gardening or cleaning. Basically, any sort of physical activity can benefit your mental health as well as physical. Maintaining a healthy diet and sleep schedule is also a great way to help! Seeking treatment doesn’t mean you’re weak--just that you want to take care of yourself and be the best you can possibly be.