Emotional disorders: types, symptoms, causes and treatment

What are emotional disorders and how do you spot them? Over the past few decades, these types of conditions have been included and redesigned in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

In this article, we will explain each of these emotional disorders, what are the symptoms and causes of each, and how they can be managed with therapy or with simple psychological counseling.

    Most common emotional disorders

    We will know this type of disorder based on its frequency, as well as its most notable characteristics.

    1. Major depressive disorder

    One of the most recognizable mood disorders and one that requires psychological and psychiatric intervention in most cases.


    To be diagnosed with major depression, the mental health professional must perceive at least five of the following symptoms, and for a minimum period of two weeks:

    • Depression (bad mood) for most of the day

    • Disinterest and inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia) in all or almost all facets on a daily basis, and almost every day.
    • Sudden decrease in body weight (more than 5% of body weight in 30 days) or excessive loss or increased appetite on most days.
    • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or excessive sleep (hypersomnia) almost every day
    • Psychomotor restlessness or sluggishness most of the time
    • Low energy most of the time
    • Feeling useless, guilty, or existential exhaustion most of the time.
    • Decreased ability to stay focused, to make decisions …
    • Thoughts of suicide, intrusive thoughts about death

    • It is a disorder that must be treated by doctors and mental health professionals. His average appearance is around 25 years old.

    2. Dysthymic disorder

    Dysthymia is another mood disorder directly related to depression. To be diagnosed with dysthymia, the patient must show a depressed mood for most of the day and for a period of at least two years, without a two-month break during which his mood returns to normal.


    At least two of the following symptoms should appear over a two-year period:

    • Unusual loss or increased appetite
    • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or hypersomnia (excessive sleep)
    • Apathy and low energy
    • Self-esteem issues

    • Problems with concentration and decision-making
    • There is an average age at which the individual usually presents the first stage of dysthymia: around the age of 20.

    3. Bipolar disorder

    Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar disorder, is the predisposition to suffer from manic episodes alternating with stages of major depression. These mood swings lead to states of euphoria and frenzied activity over long periods of time, then fall into listlessness and hopelessness.

    There are two types of bipolar disorder: I and II. They are distinguished by a feature of the manic episode. In bipolar I disorder, the manic episodes accompanied by moody stages are intermittent. However, in bipolar II disorder, the hypomanic episodes (milder than the manic episodes) and the depressive episodes are intermittent.


    In all cases, the symptoms of both subtypes are:

    • Occurrence of one or more episodes of major depression
    • Onset of at least one manic episode (in bipolar II disorder).
    • Onset of at least one hypomanic episode (in bipolar I disorder).

    4. Cyclothymic disorder

    Cyclothymic disorder is a similar alteration to bipolar II disorder. It stands out because its episodes are milder, although it lasts longer.


    The symptoms that warn of the onset of this disorder are as follows:

    • Several stages of hypomanic symptoms
    • Several stages of depression symptoms, but without meeting the criteria for major depression itself
    • About 30% of patients end up with bipolar disorder
    • Various studies indicate that the average age of onset of cyclothymic disorder is early, between 12 and 15 years.

    Causes of emotional disturbances

    In the scientific and academic community, there are different views and controversies about the most common causes of emotional disturbances. however, yes there are several factors that can influence its appearance.

    These mental disorders are multicausal. In other words, they do not appear because of a single factor, but it is the addition of several factors that can cause the disorder.

    1. Genetics

    If there is a family history of people who have suffered from emotional disturbances, this may indicate a biological and genetic predisposition. Different research concludes that people whose families have suffered from mood disorders are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer from the same psychological disorder (Gershon, 1990).

    However, there are also cases where a disorder develops without a family history or without being able to be verified. For this same reason, many experts indicate that there are environmental and psychosocial factors that may be closely related to the onset of illnesses such as depression.

    2. Biochemistry

    The brain and its internal biochemistry have decisive effects on the appearance (or not) of emotional disorders.

    • Neurotransmitters: Studies show low levels of the hormone serotonin in people with depression. This neurotransmitter regulates our emotions, and when we have low levels we tend to be more unstable and vulnerable.

    • Endocrine system: Several studies highlight the link between the onset of depression and the hormone cortisol. This hormone increases during times of stress and is apparently also abnormally high in people with mood disorders.

    3. Stress and traumatic episodes

    Over 60% of emotional disturbances occur after a bad psychological experience. Psychological trauma and stress are at the root of most psychological disorders.

    When a depressed patient is asked about life events that happened just before they fell into a depressed state, many report having had a break-up, having had a child, being fired from work, having started a academic career. …

    By this, it is not necessary to understand that the emotional disorder appears only because of this psychological trauma, but that the person already had a predisposition to suffer from a mood disorder and that the stress accelerated the mechanisms. that lead there.

    4. Personality

    Some people have recurring negative thoughts, low self-esteem, a place of external control, and tend to worry excessively. by the circumstances that life presents to them. This type of personality makes them more likely to suffer from an emotional disorder.

    These are individuals who experience a very common cognitive bias: arbitrary inference. In other words, they tend to emphasize the negative factors of a situation or circumstance rather than the positive factors. In addition, they commit excessive generalization, that is, they draw general conclusions about specific and negative situations that have happened to them.


    There are several ways to deal with emotional turmoil.

    1. Antidepressants

    There are three types of drugs used to relieve depression: tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

    These drugs work on the brain and regulate neurotransmitters, resulting in an improvement in the patient’s mood in most cases. In all cases, this type of pharmacological treatment should be prescribed by a psychiatrist, who will follow the evolution of the patient.

    2. Litigation

    Lithium is a common salt used as a mood-regulating drugMainly in manic episodes of bipolar disorder. in any case, it has more serious side effects than other drugs that fight depression.

    In the event of bipolarity, certain antidepressants are also common in order to relieve episodes of bad mood. Likewise, antipsychotics such as haloperidol may also be prescribed if their reaction to lithium has not gone as expected.

    3. Psychological therapy

    Psychological therapy is very effective in managing episodes of depression and bipolar disorder. In some cases, especially in bipolar disorder, psychotherapy should be performed in conjunction with pharmacological treatment.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Cooper, R. (2014). Diagnosis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition.
    • Harris, R. (2012). A matter of trust. From fear to freedom. Santander: Sal Terrae.
    • Wykes, T. (2011). Diagnostics for DSM V (in English). Journal of Mental Health.

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