Affective Disorders Explanations

Affective disorders or affect disorders can appear as manic (elevated) or depressive (depressed) mood and emotional states. They are therefore considered to be mood disorders. The causes of this disease have not yet been fully researched. It is assumed, however, that mainly psychological and hereditary reasons can lead to affective disorders.

What are mood disorders

Affective disorders or affect disorders can appear as manic (elevated) or depressive (depressed) mood and emotional states.

Affective disorders or affect disorders are several different diseases that all affect human affect.

This can then develop into depression , but the disease can also move to the other extreme and trigger mania.

The affect is considered to be the basic mood from which the person concerned deviates. When making the diagnosis, drive, spontaneity, social interaction and the vegetative functions of the individual are considered, including, for example, sleep or libido.

In the context of affective disorders, there can also be limitations in thinking.


The causes for the development of an affective disorder are still largely unknown today. Organic causes could not be identified so far, which is why the affective disorders are now referred to as idiopathic. However, as soon as a cause for the affect disorder becomes apparent, it is no longer a diagnosis of affective disorder, but a different internal process.

For example, depression can be a reaction to an event, while the depressed mood caused by affective disorders has no such cause in the environment. Flattened affect, which would be expressed in schizophrenia , for example , or which occur in dementia , are also not affective disorders, as there are organic causes for them.

However, the ICD-10 does not recognize any difference between depression as a reaction and affective disorders, so that, according to this definition, a cause in the environment can be identified, which is referred to as a trigger, at least for affective depressive moods.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Various symptoms and ailments can occur in the course of a mood disorder. Characteristic of an affective disorder are manic and / or depressive states, which usually occur in phases. Such an affective episode can be depressive, manic or manic-depressive. The symptoms can alternate within an episode or occur simultaneously.

The change in mood is usually accompanied by other symptoms. In many cases, this leads to memory and attention disorders, such as concentration disorders or hyperactivity . A depressive phase manifests itself among other things through depression, lack of drive and apathy, lack of interest and inhibited ability to think or concentrate.

It can also lead to [[inner restlessness | inner restlessness], sleep disorders , loss of appetite and a decrease in libido . A manic phase manifests itself through opposite symptoms, i.e. joy, increased need for sleep, increased self-confidence and emotional excitement with euphoria or irritability . With an affective disorder, the more depressive phases tend to occur.

A typical sign is an increase in suicidality on the part of the person concerned. Many sick people express themselves pessimistically and are increasingly numb. Outwardly, a mood disorder can be recognized by weight loss or frequent weight fluctuations . Depressive phases also lead to a lack of personal hygiene and cause other clear symptoms that must be clarified immediately.


The affective disorders have different disease courses – depending on whether it is an acute, chronic or episodic course. In the acute disorder, the symptoms appear suddenly and can go away just as suddenly. If this is a one-off matter, it is still referred to as acute affective disorders.

If the sphere of activity occurs again, however, one speaks of episodic affective disorder, since the complex sometimes disappears and then reappears anyway. In the chronic form, on the other hand, the symptoms persist for a long time and show either only slight changes or no changes at all, let alone improvements in the condition.

As a rule, mood disorders are characterized by the fact that they produce some form of the disorder: it is either depression, mania or bipolar disorder , in which the person’s affect constantly fluctuates between the two extremes.


A serious complication of mood disorders is suicidality, also known colloquially as suicidal risk. (Major) depression in particular increases the risk of suicide attempts. However, suicidality does not only consist of specific plans and actions that deal with one’s own death.

General thoughts about death and dying are also serious symptoms. In order to keep the complication under control, temporary inpatient treatment is necessary. This is especially true when those affected no longer feel safe from themselves or cannot honestly promise not to harm themselves.

Manic episodes often lead to uncontrolled behavior. Frequent complications arise from high financial expenses that can lead to debt. Increased sexual needs can favor risky sexual behavior or lead to corresponding social problems – for example when cheating.

Affective disorders that last longer can lead to difficulties in family life and with friends. It is often not easy for outsiders to tolerate mental health problems in the long term and to provide support. In this sense, milder but chronic courses can have far-reaching consequences.

Like all mental disorders, mood disorders can lead to incapacity for work. In some cases, permanent occupational disability is also possible, which necessitates early retirement. Other complications are associated with drug and alcohol use, drug abuse, and other disorders that may arise as a result of the mood disorder.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of mild or occasional affective disorders, it is important to consider the extent to which the affected person experiences social impairment as a result. Their social environment can also decide whether the person concerned needs treatment or whether they can be integrated well despite their affective disorder. If this is the case, a visit to the doctor is not absolutely necessary. However, if there are more acute attacks or increasing impairments, a specialist in psychiatry should always be consulted.

From the patient’s point of view, the mood disorders associated with the affect disorder can in phases become so stressful that a doctor’s visit for acute treatment makes sense. Long-term treatment of the disorder is designed to balance out depressive and manic attacks. It brings the patient into a better balance. Phase prophylaxis requires repeated visits to the doctor.

A visit to the doctor on the occasion of an outpatient drug plus psychotherapy makes sense in most cases. In the case of manic disorders in particular, it is helpful to give the patient a quiet place. Here he can find rest in acute affective attacks. The attending physician must differentiate between unipolar and bipolar disorders. The drug treatment also adapts to the diagnosis made.

A visit to a psychologist can accompany the chosen drug treatment. However, psychotherapy does not make sense as the sole therapy for affective disorders.

Treatment & Therapy

The affective disorder is first treated according to whether it is an acute or chronic or episodic form. Acute forms do not need specific treatment if they go away on their own and do not recur. In the case of chronic and episodic forms, a distinction is also made according to whether a depressive or manic mood or a bipolar disorder is present.

Thereafter, medication is used to sustainably alleviate the symptoms of the person concerned and to ensure that the extreme tendencies or fluctuations of the affect subside in the long term. Depending on the individual case, talk therapy can provide relief, but it is not the decisive factor. Since there is no cause in the person’s environment, there is nothing he can do to improve the symptoms or learn how to deal with them.


In most cases, the affected person has very few or no follow-up measures or options available for such disorders. The person concerned is primarily dependent on an early diagnosis so that there are no further complications or complaints. A doctor should be consulted at the first signs and symptoms of the disease.

Relatives or friends can also make those affected by this disease aware of the symptoms and persuade them to seek treatment. In many cases, empathetic and intensive discussions with the person affected are very useful in order to prevent psychological upsets or depression. As a rule, self-healing does not occur in this disease.

In many cases, treatment is also carried out by taking medication. In any case, the person affected must ensure that they are taken regularly and that the dosage is correct. In serious cases, admission to a closed clinic may be necessary so that the complaints can be treated properly. As a rule, the life expectancy of the person affected is not reduced by this disease.

Outlook & forecast

Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder are often recurrent. Sufferers are required to take care of themselves and to best avoid possible triggers for recurrences. However, this cannot always be guaranteed.

The current state of research relies primarily on psychotropic drugs and psychotherapy in the treatment of mood disorders . But even this is demonstrably no guarantee that relapses will not occur or that the patient’s condition will not worsen. On the other hand, there are always amazing recovery stories from people with mood disorders, for whom even the best medical professionals have made negative prognoses.

There are various reasons for this: Those affected often learn to recognize early warning signs and to develop strategies themselves to cushion emotional fluctuations. Often a normal life with work and an active private life is then possible. Another important cause of psychological stability are living conditions with supportive social contacts, professional integration and stable financial circumstances. Failure to do so increases the likelihood of relapse. Conversely, there is often a positive turnaround when the living conditions of those affected stabilize.

It is also known that exercise has a positive influence on all mental illnesses. Those affected who have learned to incorporate regular sporting activities into their everyday life generally have a better prognosis.

You can do that yourself

Extra vitamin D can help a person suffering from depression even when there is no clinical vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D can be produced by the body itself when the skin is exposed to solar radiation. Eating a healthy diet with foods rich in vitamin D can also be beneficial. In principle, it is also possible to take the vitamin as a dietary supplement. However, those affected should discuss the use of such preparations with their doctor.

Natural light not only plays an important role in the formation of vitamin D. It can also be used as part of supportive light therapy . In everyday life, for example, those affected can take a morning walk in order to strive for a similar effect. Exercise can also have a helpful effect on depressive mood disorders. Sport promotes the synthesis and release of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

However, realistic expectations are important for all measures. The means mentioned are only a supplement to psychotherapeutic and / or psychiatric treatment . In addition, it is important that those affected do not overstrain themselves or place excessive demands on themselves.

With all affective disorders, it is possible for those affected to exchange ideas with other patients in self-help groups. In addition, it is often useful to ask for support from friends and family, especially if you are suicidal or risky behavior.

Affective disorders