What are Mood Disorders?

Common moods include sadness, anger, happiness, and optimism. Moods such as these reflect and determine our reaction to events in our lives. Moods and mood changes are common and normal experiences for us all. But if certain moods stay with us too long, or if our moods change too quickly or too often, we may have a mood disorder.

Depression is the best-known mood disorder. It is an emotional state deeper and more serious than sadness, in which an individual is emotionally “blue” to the point of numbness. A depressed person often loses interest in daily activities, is drained of energy, has disrupted patterns of eating and sleeping, and can often lose their desire to live.

Causes and treatments

Depression has many causes: our biology, our family situations, our jobs, hormonal changes, drug abuse, trauma — like loss of a loved one or injury through accident, or sustained stressors like isolation and loneliness. Whatever the precipitating cause, recent findings in neuroscience suggest that depression entails changes in brain function, partly reflected in the bioelectrical activity of the brain’s electroencephalogram (EEG).

The most common treatment for depression is anti-depressant medication. Unfortunately, medication’s impact often carries the unwarranted assumption that depression is caused by biochemical abnormalities. Too few people realize that there are powerful non-drug alternatives for mood disorders. One well-studied form of treatment is psychotherapy that helps people to think and react more sensibly and optimistically to depressing thoughts and feelings — called cognitive-behavioural therapy. Top


Another, less well-known, non-drug approach to treating depression is based on new scientific knowledge about how mood disorders are related to a person’s EEG or brain waves. Research in neuroscience and brain imaging shows that people with mood disorders can have distinctive patterns of brain wave activity that underlie their mood problems. 1

Neurotherapy is based on the finding that people can learn through biofeedback training to alter and better control their brain waves. 2 Neurotherapy uses engaging computer games and exercises as feedback to teach people to reduce certain brain wave patterns associated with mood and attentional problems, and to increase positive patterns associated with activation and focus.

Neurotherapy enhances and helps stabilize a person’s mood, focus, energy, logical thinking, and desire to communicate. Also, it improves general stress management skills to help prevent relapse.

Because neurotherapy promotes behavioural activation and verbal problem solving, it is a natural ally of cognitive-behaviour therapy for mood problems. Together, they form a powerful non-drug therapeutic alliance against mood disorder, addressing three critical needs:

* To balance and restore more optimal brain wave functioning
* To build self-regulation/stress-management skills for prevention of relapse
* To teach and support optimistic patterns of thought for a brighter future

1 Davidson, R., Abercrombie, H., Nitschke, J., & Putnam, K. Regional brain function, emotion and disorders of emotion. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 1999 Apr; 9(2): 228-34.
2 Rosenfeld, P. An EEG biofeedback protocol for affective disorders. Clinical Electroencephalography, 2000, Jan; 31(1): 7-12.