Disclaimer: I am not a mental health medical practitioner; therefore, kindly do not use this content for diagnostic purposes. It is strictly for informational purposes. I write as someone affected by a mood disorder, who’s done a ton of research, and a counseling psychology student.
Why I am writing this
If you have a mood disorder, feel free to share this with your peers. I came to realize that people still don’t get what mood disorders are. Reference points are13 Reasons Why and Netflix series with high school teens. The media tends to depict extremes; Joker and every disturbed character ever, all shows with a psychiatrist, a person on a sofa, and the question “how does that make you feel?”
I am writing this because the messaging I’ve been getting is that 1) I am overreacting. I should cheer up because I tick social boxes of basic needs, family, friends, and a job. 2) I am ungrateful. I ticked boxes, and on top of that, I have parents who foot my medical bills. So what am I complaining about? 3) I am moody for no reason. Well, it’s a mood disorder. It is an illness. We don’t tell a person with diabetes, Down Syndrome, or asthma to chill out. Why do you ask me to do the same?
I am misunderstood and frustrated.
I’ll circle back to this at the end.
What is a mood disorder?
So, here, I have to come through with a medical definition; this one is from Mayo Clinic of what a mood disorder is.
“A mental health disorder is characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
The thing about mood disorders is that several things cause them. It could be biological. If your mother/father has a mental illness, you’re likely to get it as well. It could also be having two schizophrenic siblings in one family because the genetic lottery was not kind. Here, you “inherit” the disorder. Otherwise, something could have gone wrong either as a result of injury or a mutation.
The other is psychological, and this one is loaded. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can all go under psychological causes because they ultimately affect your mind.
Physical abuse and neglect: If you’ve gotten a beat down at any one point of your life, then you can understand how that could bring lasting trauma. How do you even trust a world when, in your early years, you were shown that security and love is a rumor? With stress hormones on overdrive 24/7, how do you even function? And with this one, it’s inter-generational. It’s how you still hear women saying, “I deserved to get hit” in this feminist age and men being silent about physical abuse because “are you man enough?”
The other aspect is physical neglect- where you grew up with nothing. That could be as a result of poverty or just parents who, among different ways to show you they didn’t want you, didn’t give you much. You’ll have a delayed ability to learn, and poor social skills and emotional health, and in some cases, issues such as severe dissociative states. The baseline is that physical abuse and neglect stunt the brain. And then you expect this person to function well in society. Well! Next time that tout with second-grade education from the village who was born out of wedlock talks shit to you, take a chill pill. They are not okay.
Emotional abuse and neglect: Emotional abuse is prevalent. About 40 percent of people on the average report having experienced expressive aggression or some form of coercive control. And surely, there are some people saying, “It hardened us.” That is not being hardened. That is emotional trauma, and you’d rather be cold and angry instead of facing your childhood pain. So please, miss me with that. We have a lot of angry people on this planet, and if I was to guess, it has to do with psychological abuse they’ve experienced in the hands of their guardians, relatives, teachers, and peers. So how does this not mess you up?
Another form of psychological abuse that exists is emotional neglect. This one is hard to show because you don’t have the typical “my mother called me” and “my dad did.” In this type of neglect, nothing happened. That is a huge problem. What are the long term effects? Your self-esteem and emotional health are damaged. You grow up feeling empty, and you’re unable to handle your emotions. Words are powerful. Silence is deafening and destructive.
Think of it this way. When you’re in a fight with someone, and then they go quiet, what does that signal to you? Think of all the agonizing thoughts you experience during that time. Now, as a child, when you have parents that emotionally neglect you, it signals to you that, as a human being, you don’t matter. It also says that your emotions don’t matter. Now send that child out into the world.
(This phone generation: be hella careful what you’re teaching your children.)
Sexual abuse: A messed up fact that I came across was that if you were sexually abused as a child, there is a 60+ percent chance of re-victimization. What happened to you as a child is not enough; you’re also likely to get raped when you’re older.
That one pained me on a personal level. But the math made sense. Unless you go for therapy, you tend to downplay dangerous situations as compared to other people. Maybe next time you’ll have more compassion for that chick hanging out questionable characters? The global stats are that 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime. She could be that one in the three, dear. Be kind.
What are all these a recipe for?
Say your grandpa has diabetes, your dad does as well. The odds are that you too, will get it. However, that doesn’t have to be the case with early intervention. And that’s the thing people need to understand. If your child has been through something traumatic, take them to therapy. ASAP.
Now, let’s assume you do nothing and boom, you have diabetes. That’s the same with mental illness. If you have a predisposition to get it, and the environment is “right,” you’ll suffer from it. For others, you’re born with it; you could have the rosiest of upbringings and still have a mood disorder.
Now, here’s where things just get murky. Research after research suggests that the factors I’ve talked about cause changes in the brain function, and also specific neural circuits in the brain get altered. Case in point; neural circuits for the ordinary person have no issues producing happy hormones. The rest of us, we need medication to rewire those neural circuits to even think life has the potential to be a happy place.
So the brain circuitry is off. Manifestation of the same is changes in appetite, sleep, concentration, energy levels, daily routine, mood and even self-esteem. There will be physical and behavioral symptoms. The results? The DMS5 has a full list of mood disorders that you can check out.
Bottom line: There is no singular cause of mood disorders. It’s a combination of a couple of things that scientists are still working to figure out.
Frustrated and misunderstood.
If you’re in this space, here are some things that might help you through. They have for me.
- You didn’t ask for this. Don’t let your mood disorder be a millstone around your neck that drowns you with guilt and shame.
- If they haven’t been through it, they won’t get it. It’s not their fault. It just means you need to either find your tribe or make peace. It doesn’t also mean you have to isolate yourself either.
- Get help where you can. As long as it helps you heal your childhood trauma and cope, go for it.
- Don’t let anyone tell you how your wins should look like. Did you get out of bed? Celebrate! Did you survive a social function? Yay! Did you say no to booze this one time? By the way, you’re doing well. Only you know your struggles intimately and can see when you’re improving. Don’t let others make recovery markers for you.
- A LOT of your pain resides in childhood. If you continue to ignore that by the way, you’re not going anywhere. Denial can only take you through life for so long. Face and heal that part of your life.
- READ. READ. READ. LIKE DAMN IT! READ! You have information at literally your fingertips. Google imposter syndrome, depression, constant butterflies in my stomach. If it’s too much, incognito is your friend. Search “why I hate my parents so much?” or “why do I date bitches or assholes” and “why do I always think about sex?” Ignorance about our ways in this time and age is almost offensive.
- Self-awareness and moral courage; these are the two pillars you need. Always.
Next time you’re tempted to tell a friend who’s told you they have a mood disorder to cheer up, google on appropriate ways to support them. Otherwise, silence is also a plan, but understanding would be better.
Here’s why; they haven’t killed themselves. You guy, they have tried. THEY. HAVE. TRIED.