What Is Affective Disorder?

affective disorders

Affective disorders, also called mood disorders, significantly impact mental health and daily function. At The Pearl, we commit to destigmatizing these conditions and providing pathways for healing and management. This blog post explains affective disorders, their types, symptoms, causes, and effective treatments.

Exploring the Types of Affective Disorders

Affective disorders primarily include depression and bipolar disorder, each presenting distinct challenges and symptoms.


Depression goes beyond temporary sadness. It’s a pervasive feeling of despair and hopelessness that can last for weeks or even longer. Types of depression include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

Some forms of depression can also occur due to hormonal changes in women, such as perinatal depression, postpartum depression, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Men can also experience postpartum depression, albeit less commonly. Secondary depression can emerge alongside a diagnosis of a chronic health issue like diabetes, thyroid disease, or heart disease.

Bipolar Disorder

This condition involves dramatic mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic or hypomanic highs.

  • Bipolar I: Defined by repeated manic episodes lasting at least a week, alternating with periods of depression.
  • Bipolar II: Characterized by patterns of depressive episodes and milder manic phases, known as hypomania.
  • Cyclothymia: A milder form of bipolar disorder with periods of hypomania and depression.

Symptoms of Affective Disorders

While symptoms can vary, common indicators include the following.

  • Depression: Prolonged sadness, lack of interest in activities, major changes in eating and sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating, and sometimes suicidal thoughts.
  • Bipolar disorder: Symptoms of depression and, during manic phases, exaggerated self-confidence, irritability, impulsiveness, and in severe cases, delusions or hallucinations.

Many people with affective disorders self-medicate to find symptom relief, which can lead to a co-occurring substance use disorder requiring specialized treatment.

What Causes Affective Disorders?

The exact causes are complex and not fully understood. Neurotransmitter imbalances play a significant role, and life events such as trauma or loss can trigger these disorders. Genetic factors also contribute, indicating a hereditary risk. Diagnosis involves a psychiatric evaluation by a mental health professional. This evaluation may include discussions about symptoms and tests to rule out underlying medical conditions.

Effective Treatments for Affective Disorders

Treatment usually combines medication and psychotherapy. Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant regimen, and finding the correct medication and dosage may require some trial and error. Psychotherapy is crucial in teaching you coping strategies and addressing behaviors contributing to the disorder.

Additional remedies like vitamin D supplements and light therapy can be effective, especially for seasonal depression. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, consistent sleep, and a healthy diet also play a supportive role in treatment.

Finding Help at The Pearl

At The Pearl, we understand the complexities of affective disorders and offer a holistic approach to treatment. If you struggle with your mental and behavioral health, contact us to learn about our comprehensive women’s-only approach to recovery and wellness.