A mood disorder is a mental illness like major depression, bipolar disorder, and persistent depressive disorder, characterized by dysfunctional mood or abnormal mood fluctuations. These changes in mood can manifest as depression (excessive sadness and low mood), mania (episodes of elevated mood and euphoria), or an interaction of both.
The mood fluctuations may also be accompanied by changes in sleep, productivity, energy levels, and appetite – and can seriously impact an individual’s ability to function in their day-to-day life.
According to the National Institute of Mental health (NIMH), nearly 22 percent of the US adult population will experience a mood disorder at some point in their lifetime, making them some of the most common mental illnesses in the country.
And while there are many potential causes for mood disorders – such as trauma, substance abuse, or physical illness – research has shown that genetics play a significant role in their development.
Mood Disorders and Heredity
While the exact cause of mood disorders is not well understood, it’s thought they are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Familial studies have found there is a higher incidence of mood disorders in families with a history of mental illness.
Twin studies have also shown that identical twins have a higher chance of both of them developing a mood disorder compared to fraternal twins. According to one such study, if one identical twin has a mood disorder, there is a 50 percent chance the other twin will also develop the condition.
These studies suggest that inherited traits play a huge role in the development of mood disorders. However, scientists are yet to conclusively identify a specific gene(s) that may be responsible for the heredity of mood disorders. Most experts believe there are multiple genes involved that interact with each other and with environmental factors to influence an individual’s susceptibility to these debilitating mental illnesses.
It is important to note that not everyone with a family history of mood disorders will go on to develop it themselves. Similarly, not everyone who develops a mood disorder has a family history of the condition. This supports the theory that other factors – such as environment and lifestyle choices – may also lead to or increase the likelihood of developing mood disorders.
Are Mood Disorders Treatable?
Although much remains unknown about the causes of mood disorders, there are proven treatments like psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle changes that can help people manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.
Medications are often used to stabilize mood and provide temporary relief from symptoms but don’t necessarily address the root cause of the disorder. Commonly prescribed medications include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.
Psychotherapy aims to address the underlying causes of mood disorders and can be an effective treatment on its own or in conjunction with medication. It can help people develop healthy coping mechanisms, avoid negative thinking patterns and learn to manage their emotions.
Making lifestyle changes can also be beneficial for people with mood disorders. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are all essential for maintaining good mental health and promoting overall well-being. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is also crucial, as substance abuse is often a trigger or exacerbating factor for mood disorders.
The Bottom Line
While genes may play a role in the development of mood disorders, it is crucial to remember that they are not the only factor involved. Environmental factors, such as stress, trauma, and substance abuse, can also contribute to the development of these conditions.
If you think you or a loved one may have a mood disorder, reach out to a mental health professional for support and treatment. Mood disorders may not be curable, but with appropriate treatment, it is possible to achieve long-term remission from symptoms and start enjoying life once more.