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Mood Disorders: Symptoms and Diagnosis | AQA B Psychology
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Mood Disorders: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Unipolar, Bipolar Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder


  • People suffering from unipolar depression are usually aware of their mood change and will either spontaneously recover or voluntarily seek help.
  • Categorised as neurosis.

Symptoms of Unipolar Depression

  • Cognition
    • Memory and concentration affected
    • Think negatively
    • Think about committed suicide
    • Persistent worrying
  • Emotion
    • Sadness and despair
    • Absence feeling, describe themselves as ‘empty’
    • No interest in everyday activities
    • Excessive guilt
  • Behavioural
    • Stop socialising
    • Lose interest in sex
    • May attempt suicide
    • Activities take longer to complete
    • Stop taking care of themselves
  • Physical
    • Aches and pains
    • Lack of energy
    • Palpitation (shiver)
    • Headaches
    • Stomach upsets
    • Loss of weight and appetite

Diagnosis of Unipolar Depression

The person must have 1 of the following symptoms out of the 4 stated above:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest and pleasure
  • Symptoms must last at least 2 weeks.


  • A mood swing from a very low, depressed state to mania. When their depression lifts they enter a period of extreme joy known as mania.
  • During the manic phase the person may lose touch with reality and the illness is categorised as a psychosis.

Symptoms of Bipolar Depression

  • Cognitive
    • Severely disrupted
    • Delusional ideas – ‘Grandiose delusion’
    • Paranoid – people trying to kill them`- ‘Persecutory delusion’
    • May hear voice inside head
    • Visual hallucinations
    • Irrational decisions
  • Emotion
    • Will feel marvellous – deny anything is wring with them
    • Lack of guilt
    • Increased pleasure in activates
    • Loss of social inhibitions (shyness)
  • Behavioural
    • Increase in work, sexual activity and social activity
    • More talkative and speak faster
    • Reckless with negative consequences
  • Physical
    • Sleep very little
    • Increase in energy levels

Diagnosis of Bipolar Depression

The person must involve a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated mood lasting at least 2 weeks, plus at lease 3 additional symptoms of those above.

Patients may be unaware that there is anything wring with them during the manic phase.

Seasonally Affective Disorder

  • Type of depression occurring in the winter months.
  • Onset usually 18-30 years old
  • It can be either unipolar or bipolar

Unipolar SAD – Will end in spring with return to normal functioning
Bipolar SAD – Sufferer enters a manic phase when winter ends. The condition is usually diagnosed when the person has had three or more consecutive winter of symptoms
Biological Explanation – The pineal gland in the brain secrete a hormone called melatonin when it begins to get dark outside. The hormone acts to make us feel drowsy and ready for sleep.

Experiment: TERMAN (1988)

Aim – Tried to find evidence that reduction in daylight hours contributed to SAD
Method – He compared the incidence of depression in two part of America where daylight hours were different
Results – 10% suffered from SAD in New Hampshire where winter days were short and
2% suffered from SAD in Florida, more daylight during winter.
Conclusion – The difference in daylight hours was a contributory factor in the onset of seasonally affective disorder

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