Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are types of mental disorders that affect a person’s mood every day. Everyone can become sad or angry from time to time, but having a mood disorder means that your moods are constantly being altered in a way you can’t control. According to the NLM, “Nearly one in ten people aged 18 and older have mood disorders.”

These disorders have distinct signs and symptoms and can also create other problems in an individual’s life as well. But there are possible treatments that you can receive for a mood disorder, both pharmacological and behavioral, which can help make it much easier to live with this condition.

What are the Types of Mood Disorders?

At its core, there are two categories of mood disorders and different versions of these disorders which fit under one of the two categories. The two main mood disorder types are:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

Both of these disorders affect the moods of the individual and make it very difficult for someone to deal with different aspects of day to day life. Depending on your symptoms, you can narrow down the version of depression or bipolar disorder that you are experiencing.

What is Depression?

Depression is a kind of mood disorder where a person will feel sad most of the time, to the point where it interferes with the individual’s daily life. There are “several forms of depressive disorders,” according to the NIMH. These are:

Mood Disorders

Someone with depression will feel sad most of the time, and it will affect their daily life.

  • Major depression
    • Major depression is a severe form of depressive disorder which interferes “with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life.” It comes in episodes and, for most individuals who suffer from major depression disorder, these episodes will occur more than once in a lifetime.
  • Psychotic depression
    • Psychotic depression is a mood disorder where the individual has depression and a form of psychosis like hallucination or delusions.
  • Postpartum depression
    • This is a form of depression that occurs after a woman has just given birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD)
    • Individuals with this disorder will experience depression during the winter months.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (or PDD; dysthymia)
    • PDD “is a chronic (ongoing) type of depression in which a person’s moods are regularly low,” but symptoms are not as intense as those caused by major depression (NLM).

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is also often called manic-depressive disorder. It causes changes in a person’s mood, but the individual can go from extremely happy and even frenzied, manic moods to completely depressed moods. One mood will usually last several weeks or longer before the next comes along.

The two most common versions of bipolar disorder are:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cyclothymia, a more mild form of bipolar disorder that may be harder to detect for this reason

Bipolar disorder and depression are both extremely stressful and difficult on the lives of the afflicted and their loved ones.

What are the Signs of the Different Mood Disorders?

When a doctor is attempting to decide if a patient actually has a mood disorder, they will look for the different signs of these conditions in the patient. Though there are different versions of each of the two main categories of mood disorders, the signs are similar for all types of depressive disorders and all types of bipolar disorders. And, if you are worried that your loved one is suffering from a mood disorder, make sure to look for the signs.

Depression has many signs. If a person

  • Becomes incredibly fatigued and is tired often
  • Seems to have no energy most of the time
  • Talks about committing suicide or attempts to commit suicide
  • Suddenly eats more than before or eats too little
  • Gains or loses weight rapidly
  • Begins to sleep less (insomnia) or sleep much more
  • Has trouble concentrating in school, work, or other situations

there is a chance that the individual is experiencing some form of depression. Figuring out which form of depression it may be can be slightly more difficult to pin down, but there are clues.

For example, if someone you know has just had a child and exhibits these signs, there is a good chance that they are experiencing postpartum depression. Or, in the case of psychotic depression, the individual will possibly show signs of being

  • Hostile
  • Violent
  • Aggressive
  • Paranoid
  • Confused
  • Delusional

along with their depressive signs. However, being absolutely certain of the type of depression someone is experiencing is not possible without consulting a doctor first. If you think your friend may be suffering from some type of depression based on their behavioral and physical signs, try to get them help as quickly as possible.

The signs of bipolar disorder are similar to those of depression in some ways. A person might experience similar issues during the depressive episode of the disorder including “having problems concentrating,” being irritable, and “changing eating, sleeping, or other habits” (NIMH). A person will also experience manic episodes as well, the signs of these being:

  • Talking extremely fast
  • Being awake and alert most of the time
  • Restlessness
  • Moving parts of the body uncontrollably
  • “Taking on new projects” and increasing the amount of their activity

If your loved one is experiencing issues with bipolar disorder, they will constantly be exhibiting a type of overwrought emotion or mood, swinging between the manic and depressive states. These swings usually do not happen immediately, but after several months of someone being extremely happy and intensely energetic, they will suddenly lose their ability to care about anything and seem apathetic and melancholy.

If I Notice These Signs in a Loved One…

It is very important that you try and get them help as soon as possible. You may not be sure exactly what disorder the individual is dealing with, but if it comes to a point where they cannot live their life because of it, seeking treatment is the best possible reaction, as the longer they go without help, the worse it will be.

What are the Issues Caused by Mood Disorders?

A mood disorder will disrupt your life in many ways. You will experience issues with many different types of aspects of your daily life, including:

  • Relationships 
    • Your loved ones may become frustrated with your behavior which could be a result of your intense moods. You may have issues holding onto relationships, making yourself care about the needs of others, or relating to those you love.
  • Work and school
    • These responsibilities, among others, will suffer as a result of a mood disorder. You may find yourself not caring about the work you do because you feel under the weather most of the time, or you could start to become very distracted by other issues in your life, meaning that you do not get things done the way you used to.
  • The way you feel about yourself 
    • Struggling with a mood disorder can cause you to feel very differently about yourself in general. Many people come to dislike themselves and even consider or attempt suicide. “Low self-esteem is common with depression,” according to the NLM, and for someone who is suffering from bipolar disorder, the same issues can occur.
  • Drug abuse and addiction
    • As stated by the NIDA, “Compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true.”

What are the Symptoms of Having a Mood Disorder?

There are many different symptoms that you may experience if you have a mood disorder. Asking yourself the questions below may help you gain insight into your condition and whether or not you might be suffering from a mood disorder.

  • Do I feel sad more often than I feel happy?
  • Do I feel that my moods are constantly “fluctuating between extreme happiness and extreme sadness?” (
  • Do my moods cause problems for me in my everyday life?
  • If my low or happy and sad moods are not very extreme, have I been experiencing them for at least 2 years? (dysthymia or cyclothymia)
  • Do I repeatedly think about suicide?
  • Do I have a plan for suicide?
  • Am I constantly finding myself feeling worthless?
    • Guilty?
    • Tired?
  • Do I usually sleep too much and/or not enough?
  • Have I begun to feel that the things which were once important in my life are meaningless now?
  • Am I constantly losing and/or gaining weight, and does my diet change often?
  • Do I ever become extremely irritable toward my friends and loved ones and not know why?
  • Do I feel like my emotions are out of my control?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, it is likely that you are dealing with some sort of mood disorder.

Are There Treatments that are Readily Available for Mood Disorders?

Yes. According to the NIH, “With medication, psychotherapy, or combined treatment, most people with mood disorders can be effectively treated and resume productive lives.”

If you are experiencing a more mild disorder like seasonal affective disorder, dysthymia, or cyclothymia, you will likely be given a more mild treatment regimen. However, if you are suffering from major depression or severe bipolar disorder, you may need long-term or more intense treatments in order to get better more quickly.

Where Can I Get Treatment?

Different individuals may choose to be treated for their mood disorders through different means. In some cases, if a person tries to physically harm themselves, they may be placed in a treatment facility, usually inpatient-based, where they can be monitored by healthcare professionals in a controlled environment. Some individuals may be able to attend treatment at a therapist’s or doctor’s office. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that your choice is the best one for you as an individual.


There are several different medications that are used to treat different mood disorders. Again, someone with a mild disorder will not need strong medication as a treatment, so this is important to keep in mind. Still, medication is highly beneficial when it comes to the treatment of mood disorders.

  • Depression medications
    • Antidepressants
      • Antidepressants are used for nearly every type of depression. SSRIs are “some of the newest and most popular antidepressants” which have fewer side effects than earlier antidepressants (NIMH 1). Some of these are:
        • Zoloft
        • Paxil
        • Prozac
        • Celexa
        • Lexapro
    • Tricyclics
      • These are very powerful medications that are not used as often today as they once were because of their strong side effects.
    • MAOIs
      • MAOIs are better for treating “atypical depression, such as when a person experiences increased appetite and the need for more sleep.”
  • Bipolar disorder medications
    • Mood stabilizers
      • Lithium is a mood stabilizers that is often used to treat bipolar disorder. These medications can be used by individuals for years to curb symptoms of bipolar disorder.
    • Atypical antipsychotics
      • These medications are strong and best used for patients who have intense bipolar symptoms.
    • Antidepressants


Psychotherapy is an extremely beneficial treatment for those suffering from mood disorders as it “teaches people strategies and gives them tools to deal with stress and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors” (NIMH). In addition to medication, this type of treatment helps patients become more in control of their moods and symptoms, helping them function better.

Some common types of psychotherapies are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
    • This therapy helps patients change their “unhealthy behavior patterns” and think about how their moods affect their actions and ways to counteract specific mood issues.
  • Psychoeducation
    • Psychoeducation teaches patients what their conditions are caused by and how these issues come about. They help patients recognize issues before they occur.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy 
    • This type of therapy is often used for depression when someone does not respond to other treatments. Once known as shock therapy, it has improved greatly and can help individuals find relief from depression.

For many, mood disorders are debilitating issues with which individuals suffer in silence. But getting treatment can help you control and manage your symptoms so that you can live a happier, more productive life.

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