What are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorder is the umbrella term for a range of mental health disorders that distort your moods and emotions to the point where they interfere with your ability to function normally. Mood disorders are classified as either unipolar or bipolar. Unipolar mood disorders only present distortions to one extreme, like depression. Bipolar disorders cause emotional swings from euphoric highs to depressive lows. 

Some common mood disorders are:

  • Depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Bipolar I and II
  • Cyclothymic disorder

What are symptoms of mood disorders?

Mood disorders distort your emotions, so your symptoms are typically linked to the extreme feelings of depression or manic episodes. 

Depressive symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Weight changes
  • Changes to sleep habits — both oversleeping and insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Indecisiveness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Euphoric symptoms include:

  • High energy
  • Less need for sleep
  • Exaggerated self-esteem
  • Poor concentration
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsive behaviors 





What is PTSD?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that develops when a traumatic event causes long-term negative effects, including intrusive thoughts, negativity, and avoidance behaviors. PTSD was originally known as shell shock and combat fatigue because the symptoms and behaviors were initially noticed and diagnosed in service people during and after World Wars I and II. The condition is characterized by reliving the event in flashbacks, anxiety, and disruptive emotional patterns and behaviors.

If you experience a traumatic event like a natural disaster, mass shooting, or sexual or personal assault, it’s common and normal to have these symptoms in the days and weeks following the event. However, over time, these symptoms should slowly decrease and disappear. PTSD occurs when flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms last for months or even years after the event, causing significant distress and disruption to your normal activities. 

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms typically develop in four different categories. Each person has a unique experience and these symptoms present in a spectrum of severity. You may not experience everything listed or you may have symptoms not included in this list. 

  • Intrusive thoughts, memories, dreams, or flashbacks that are so vivid you feel like you’re reliving the trauma
  • Avoidance behaviors like staying away from people or places that remind you of the trauma or suppressing thoughts or memories
  • Negative thoughts about yourself or others involved in the event, like survivor’s guilt or anger, fear, and shame
  • Abnormal reactions like angry outbursts, being easily startled, or sleep disorders





What is Depression?

Depression is a common mental health disorder characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. These feelings can lead to a loss of interest in your normal activities and relationships as well as dangerous and disruptive behaviors. 

Depression is more common in women than in men and usually arises in your late teens or early twenties, although it can develop at any time. 

Depression is different from grief or normal feelings of sadness. Depression typically lasts for weeks or months on end and may or may not be related to a specific event or personal loss. Depression can significantly disrupt your day-to-day life.

What causes depression?

While the specific causes of depression aren’t fully understood, psychiatrists and medical researchers know that chemical imbalances in the brain and certain biological differences cause abnormally intense sadness. Hormone imbalances and vitamin deficiencies can also contribute to depression.

Known risk factors that increase your chances of developing depression include:

  • Family history of depression or mental health disorders
  • Trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Serious chronic illnesses
  • Personality traits such as pessimism or low self-esteem
  • Environmental factors like neglect or poverty





What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse, or addiction, is a mental health issue where you compulsively use a substance despite negative consequences. Substance use disorder — as it’s clinically known — is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of diagnostic criteria you meet. Substance abuse is usually progressive, which means that you may begin to use a substance for recreational purposes and over time become dependant on the drug.

If you have a substance use disorder, changes in your brain cause your intense cravings for drugs or alcohol and make it challenging for you to stop using the substance. Medical researchers have found that people with substance abuse disorders have changes in the parts of their brains related to behavior and impulse control, decision making, judgment, learning, and memory.

Substance abuse causes significant clinical and functional impairment that impacts your health, personal relationships, and performance at work or school. 

What are risk factors for substance abuse?

Substance abuse can affect anyone, although your brain characteristics can increase your risk of becoming addicted. Some of the other factors that affect your chances of developing a substance use disorder include:

  • A family history of addiction and your genetics
  • Personality traits like high impulsivity
  • Other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Environmental factors like abuse, trauma, or an environment where substance use is common
  • Beginning to use a substance at an early age

If you have any of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean you are going to develop a substance use disorder, just that your risk is increased.





What is Ketamine?

Ketamine was originally used as an anesthetic and pain reliever during the Vietnam War. It also has a reputation as a “club” drug. However, it’s also proving to be an effective alternative to traditional antidepressants and helpful for people who have treatment-refractory — resistant — depression. 

When ketamine is administered in small and controlled doses, it can ease depression symptoms rapidly. It’s important to note that using ketamine as an antidepressant is an “off-label” use. This means that the FDA hasn’t approved ketamine for this purpose. 

“Off-label” use is a common practice. Many drugs prescribed today came into use for entirely different purposes, and over time, medical professionals and researchers found additional clinical applications. For example, Prazosin was originally approved to treat high blood pressure in the 1970s. However, today it’s commonly used to reduce nightmares in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

How does ketamine therapy treat depression?

Ketamine works differently from other antidepressant medications. It increases the activity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter found in the frontal cortex of your brain. At the same time, ketamine stimulates the growth of new synapses.

Most antidepressants affect your serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline levels. They increase serotonin activity in several parts of your brain which ultimately affects your glutamate.  

The doctors at South Texas Mental Health Associates carefully monitor ketamine therapy to ensure your health and well-being. They usually provide ketamine injections on a weekly or biweekly basis, and you have frequent appointments so your doctor can monitor your depression symptoms and check for any side effects.

How do I know if ketamine therapy is right for me?

If you’ve been having depression treatment for some time and haven’t responded to at least two other forms of antidepressants, you should talk to your doctor about ketamine therapy. Clinically, nonresponsive means that your mood hasn’t improved and your other depression symptoms have not reduced with treatment.

The doctors and staff at South Texas Mental Health Associates are committed to helping you overcome your depression. They understand that your experience is unique and will work with you to find the best possible treatment plan to improve your mental health so you can lead a healthy and active life.

Call to schedule a consultation today to learn more about your treatment options for depression.





What is Psychopharmacology?

Psychopharmacology is the study of medicinal treatments for mental health disorders. It is a complex and constantly changing field of study. The psychiatrists and nurse practitioners at South Texas Mental Health Associates have studied psychopharmacology extensively and frequently attend training and conferences where they learn about new medications and studies about how medications work with the body and reduce symptoms associated with mental health disorders. Some of the key aspects include:

  • Protein-binding, which controls how much of the medication is available to and used by your body
  • Half-life, which indicates how long the medication stays in your body
  • Interactions with other drugs
  • Study of how certain drugs interact with polymorphic genes — genes that vary between people

How do the physicians know what medications to prescribe?

The team at South Texas Mental Health Associates have spent years studying psychopharmacology. In addition to their study during medical school, they continued a deeper study in their additional years of training to become psychiatrists, giving them a comprehensive understanding of medications designed for mental health disorders.

Your doctor considers many factors when prescribing a medication, including your symptoms, lifestyle, body composition, and other medications you are taking. Even with their extensive knowledge of psychopharmacology, they may need to adjust your prescription or dosage to optimize the effects.  

What role do drugs play in mental health treatment?

The team at South Texas Mental Health Associates use their knowledge of psychopharmacology to regulate your brain chemistry and alleviate your symptoms.

For example, if you are living with depression, there are a variety of medications that reduce symptoms in different ways including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), and many other options. Your doctor chose the medication they feel will best address your symptoms with the least disruptive side effects.

Ultimately, your psychiatrist uses medications to control your symptoms so you can make the most of therapy and rehabilitation and rejoin your life. Medication is typically used in conjunction with other treatments. For example, when your brain chemistry is causing an emotional roller coaster, you won’t be able to focus on the issues you’re uncovering and addressing in therapy.

If you have questions or concerns about your mental health or the medications you are currently taking, call or schedule an appointment online today.