Mental Disorders: Emotion & Feeling


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Mood disorders affect about 10% of the population. Everyone experiences “highs” and “lows” in life, but people with mood disorders experience them with greater intensity and for longer periods of time than most people.

There are two types of mood disorders which include unipolar mood disorders and bipolar mood disorders. Unipolar disorder is major depression, whereas Bipolar Disorder is when a person experiences cycles of Depression and Mania.

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Not to be confused with the word “depression” which is commonly used to describe emotional distress or sadness, Depression means CLINICAL DEPRESSION, which is a mental disorder.

Depression is the most common mood disorder; a person with depression feels “very low.” Symptoms may include: feelings of hopelessness, changes in eating patterns, disturbed sleep, constant tiredness, an inability to have fun, and thoughts of death or suicide.

People with bipolar disorder have periods of depression and periods of feeling unusually “high” or elated. The “highs” get out of hand, and the manic person can behave in a reckless manner, sometimes to the point of financial ruin or getting in trouble with the law.

What are the different types of Depression?

There are two common kinds of clinical depression:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Dysthymic Disorder (DD). Both can significantly and negatively impact on people’s lives. They can lead to social, personal and family difficulties as well as poor vocational/educational performance and even premature death due to suicide.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): MDD is usually a life-long disorder beginning in adolescence or early adulthood and is characterized by periods (lasting months to years) of depressive episodes that are usually self-limiting. The episodes may be separated by periods (lasting months to years) of relative mood stability.

Dysthymic Disorder (DD): DD is a low-grade depression that lasts for many years. It is less common than MDD

Signs and Symptoms of a Mood Disorder

A pattern that continues for a long period, or repeats, may indicate an underlying serious mental health problem or mental illness.

The following are some of the more common signs of Mood Disorder. Sometimes these changes are subtle, and happen gradually over time. This list is not exhaustive, and these signs could be indicative of things other than mental illness:

  • marked changes in personality;
  • confused thinking;
  • inability to cope with problems and daily activities;
  • strange ideas or delusions;
  • excessive fears, worries or anxiety;
  • prolonged feelings of irritability or sadness;
  • significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
  • thinking or talking about suicide;
  • extreme highs and lows in mood;
  • abuse of alcohol or drugs;
  • excessive anger, hostility;
  • paranoid behaviour;
  • social withdrawal;
  • irrational fears.

Teachers and other school staff may, however, be able to notice significant changes in their student’s work habits, behaviours, performance, and attendance, such as:

  • consistent late arrivals or frequent absences;
  • low morale;
  • disorganization in completing school work or in study habits;
  • lack of cooperation or a general inability to communicate with others;
  • increased accidents;
  • frequent complaints or evidence of fatigue or unexplained pains;
  • problems concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things;
  • missed deadlines, delays in completing assignments, poor exam grades;
  • making excuses for missed deadlines, or poor quality work;
  • decreased interest or involvement in class topics or academics in general.
How to Recognize the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

What can educators do to support students dealing with Mood Disorder's?

If you recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a mental illness in a student, it is important to take action. This action may include:

  • Speaking with the student directly about the changes you’ve noticed and seeing if they are aware of these changes;
  • Speaking with other school staff who have contact with the student to ask them about their observations and experiences;
  • Speaking with the student’s parents to determine if they have noticed changes at home as well;
  • Directing the student to appropriate medical help;
  • Liaising with school psychologist, special education department, etc. to develop a support plan. Written consent must be obtained in order to liaise with support professionals outside the school.

Sample Lesson to assist students in understanding Mental Disorders: Emotion and Feeling

This would be an introductory lesson on learning the facts of Mental Health and Mental Illness. The focus on Mood Disorders.


(1) Students will understand key characteristics of mental illness. (2) Students will be able to define stigma.

Time: 30 - 40 minutes

Materials: Small whiteboards with markers for each team Internet connection and projector "What is Mental Health" section


Ask students "how many of you have been sick in the last year?" How were you sick? How long were you sick? Take 3 - 5 responses. Reinforce that students (1) are describing physical symptoms (headache, fever, chills, upset stomach, etc.); (2) sought help from a doctor; (3) took medicine; and (4) recovered.

First have students complete a Student Survey (Pre lesson) on Mental Health and High school.

(This survey can also be used after the lesson to see how the curriculum and information discovered throughout the lesson has changed their perception and understanding.


(1) Explain that we are going to learn about mental health and mental illness. Explain that just like being physically ill, persons with a mental illness have symptoms, can seek help, may take medicine, and can recover.

(2) Divide the class into teams comprised of 3 - 4 participants. Tell the class that you will be reading information about mental health and mental illness from the WalkinOurShoes website and then asking teams to respond to questions about what you read. The team who answers the most questions correctly will be the winner. (You may want to have a small prize for the winning team.)

Give each team a whiteboard and marker to use display answers to the game questions. Each team will write on their whiteboard what they think is the correct answer. Points are awarded for each correct answer. Some rounds may be worth extra points to keep the game interesting.

(3) Read the What is Mental Health? section of the WalkinOurShoes website (


After reading the text, have teams respond to the following questions:

1) Being healthy includes a. having a body that feels good and works well b. having a healthy mind and body c. not being sick d. all of the above

2) Mental illness can occur only after a person has reached adulthood. a. True b. False

3) Having a mental illness can affect the way that a person a. behaves b. thinks c. feels d. all of the above

4) If a person who is physically sick goes to see a medical doctor, a person who has a mental health problem sees a ________________?

5) What causes mental illness? a. diet b. catching it from someone else c. being violent d. no one knows

6) Another way to talk about mental illness is to say a. mental health challenge b. mental wellness c. mental malfunction d. disordered mentality

7) What does the term "diagnosis" mean? a. to have a feeling that you know what is wrong b. to meet with your medical doctor who gives you a prescription for medication c. to meet with a mental health professional and he or she gives what you are experiencing a name d. to be told you have a mental illness e. all of the above

8) What is the least effective way of dealing with a mental health challenge or mental illness? a. keeping feelings bottled up inside b. telling a trusted adult how you feel c. staying at a hospital for a brief period of time d. meeting with a mental health professional

9) If a person with a mental illness or mental health challenge experiences "stigma", what does that mean?

10) People with a mental illness will always be ill. a. True b. False

Sum up the points to determine a team winner.

Reflection Question:

Who can tell me one thing they learned today about mental illness that they did not know before this class began? (This is where the survey can be re-addressed)

Applying the Lesson:

Explore with students how they might act in the following situations, helping them see how they might apply the knowledge from today's lesson:

• What would you do if you found out your friend had been diagnosed with a mental illness?

• What would you do if you witnessed someone at school making fun of a person with a mental illness?