With terms like “bipolar” and “narcissism” making rounds on social media, it’s easy to mix them up. How you deal with these conditions is different, and it’s critical to unlearn things you picked up from non-credible sources.
Mood disorders and personality disorders are two distinct categories of mental health conditions that impact a person’s life. While they have some common symptoms and characteristics, they are fundamentally different as to what causes them, how they present, and their treatment approaches.
The following paragraphs discuss the main differences between mood disorders and personality disorders while shedding light on their diagnostic criteria, symptoms, and available treatment options.
By understanding these nuances, mental health professionals and healthcare providers can provide accurate diagnoses and effective treatments for individuals suffering from these conditions, ultimately improving their quality of life.
Defining Mood Disorders and Personality Disorders:
Mood disorders are unrelated to personality and should not be considered flaws. These are illnesses beyond a person’s control. Yet, such individuals can still lead productive, fulfilling lives.
Moreover, mood disorders are not linked to personality. Doctors and psychologists view mood disorders as conditions where periods of extreme emotions impact daily life. In contrast, personality disorders arise from ingrained thought or behavior patterns.
Mood disorders are a category of mental illnesses defined as emotional dysregulation (disturbances in a person’s emotional state or mood). It can include severe lows and extreme highs.
Mood disorders can manifest as prolonged periods of depression, known as major depressive disorder, or alternating episodes of extreme highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression), referred to as bipolar disorder.
While in most cases, the causes can be attributed to a history of similar mood disorders in parents, substance abuse, or personal history of other mental health disorders.
But at its core, chemical imbalances in the brain, particularly involving neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, play a significant role in mood disorders.
Personality disorders, on the other hand, are a distinct group of mental health conditions characterized by rigid and inflexible patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. These have little to do with the chemicals in your brain, but more with one’s social conditioning.
These behavioral patterns are sometimes socially unacceptable since they deviate from societal norms. They may lead to difficulties in interpersonal relationships, how one presents in society, and one’s performance in work-based settings.
Personality disorders are stable and persistent over time, often developing in adolescence or early adulthood. Unlike mood disorders, they are believed to be rooted in a combination of genetic predispositions and early life events.
These conditions typically manifest in early adulthood and are divided into three clusters: Cluster A (e.g., paranoid personality disorder), Cluster B (e.g., narcissistic personality disorder), and Cluster C (e.g., avoidant personality disorder).
Key Differences in Symptoms and Presentation:
Mood disorders primarily manifest through a person’s emotional state and mood changes.
In the case of major depressive disorders, individuals experience persistent feelings of sadness, and loss of interest in activities, and may even have suicidal thoughts.
Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, involves distinct episodes of mania, during which a person may display an erratic “high” mood. It can manifest as talking needlessly for hours, impulsive behavior, heightened energy levels, and impaired judgment. These episodes of mania are followed by depressive episodes with opposite “low” feelings. A person may exhibit hopelessness, depressed mood, social withdrawal, and lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
In contrast, personality disorders are defined by persistent and inflexible patterns of behavior and thinking. Such disorders are more noticeable in people close to the person. It is why, more often than not, personality disorders become a hurdle within interpersonal life, leading to unstable relationships.
The presentation of these disorders depends on the specific kind. People with narcissistic personality disorder may exhibit an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy. Such people may have trouble compromising and admitting their faults.
While those with an avoidant personality disorder may struggle with feelings of low self-esteem and an intense fear of rejection. It may exhibit anti-social behaviors and fear of commitment in romantic relationships.
A paranoid personality disorder is characterized by constant distrust and suspiciousness of others’ motives, leading to difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships. Such people may be involved in obsessive behaviors to seek reassurance.
Diagnosis and Assessment:
Diagnosing mood disorders and personality disorders involves thorough assessments that need to be conducted by licensed mental health professionals such as psychiatrists.
For mood disorders, healthcare providers often use a combination of standardized questionnaires and interviews to assess the presence of depressive or manic episodes. It is imperative to differentiate between the two disorders as treatment options differ for both. Treating one in the other’s stead will not only lead to delayed improvement but may also cause a worsening of symptoms.
Personality disorders are more challenging to diagnose due to the subjectivity of symptoms and the overlap with normal personality traits. It is highly dependent on one’s clinical judgment and how cooperative the patient is.
Mental health professionals may employ the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to identify specific personality traits and their impact on daily functioning. Along with this, a detailed evaluation of the individual’s history, behavior, and interpersonal relationships is crucial for an accurate diagnosis. In some cases, talking to close relatives and friends can also aid in diagnosis.
For both, mood disorders and personality disorders it is essential for the doctor to rule out organic causes that may be manifesting this way with similar symptoms. Sometimes, a disturbance of hormones such as thyroid or a deficiency of nutrients such as Vitamin D can manifest as mood changes. In rare cases, brain tumors or neurological infections can also cause personality changes. Treatment modalities for all these are drastically different, hence correct diagnoses are imperative.
It is important to keep all differentials in one’s mind when evaluating someone for a psychiatric disorder.
Effective treatment for mood disorders often involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) have proved to manage depressive symptoms and impulsive behavior associated with these disorders.
Medications like mood stabilizers, such as lithium, are commonly prescribed to manage manic episodes in bipolar disorder. Antidepressants may be used for major depressive disorder. It is super critical that one regularly follows up with their doctor since careful monitoring is necessary to prevent worsening symptoms or suicidal behavior and to avoid side effects. Dose adjustment is also essential to establish one that works best without many side effects.
For personality disorders, long-term psychotherapy is the primary treatment.
Transference-focused psychotherapy and group therapy are effective for individuals with borderline personality disorder.
It helps them develop emotional regulation skills. It helps them establish stable interpersonal relationships and functional work ethic. Family therapy is beneficial for addressing issues in relationships affected by personality disorders.
Treatment may also involve addressing any co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse.
In conclusion, Mood disorders and personality disorders are two distinct types of mental health conditions with significant differences in symptoms, causes, and treatment approaches.
Mood disorders revolve around dysregulation of mood and mood changes, while personality disorders involve constant patterns of behavior and cognition affecting one’s functioning abilities.
Accurate diagnosis by licensed mental health professionals is crucial in providing the best course of treatment that can help improve the quality of life for individuals experiencing these mental health problems.
Treatment and support can enable individuals with mood and personality disorders to lead fulfilling lives and navigate their mental health issues effectively. Addressing their unique challenges and tailoring treatment plans to their specific needs can empower individuals to manage these conditions and enhance their overall well-being.
Fostering a deeper understanding of mood and personality disorders can encourage these people to get the help they need. Together, we can promote compassionate and effective care for those in need, ultimately contributing to improved mental health outcomes in our communities.