Mood Disorders Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Mood disorders significantly impact emotional well-being and daily functioning, affecting millions worldwide. This article explores the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for conditions such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. By promoting understanding and compassion, we can support individuals facing these challenges and offer them hope for a brighter future.


By We Level Up WA | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: May 22, 2023

What Is A Mood Disorder?


A mood disorder definition is a mental health condition characterized by persistent disturbances in an individual’s emotional state. It involves a significant deviation from the person’s usual mood, affecting their thoughts, feelings, and overall well-being. Mood disorders encompass a range of conditions, including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and persistent depressive disorder.

These disorders can result in intense sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or euphoria, significantly impacting daily functioning and quality of life. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing mood disorders and promoting emotional stability.

List Of Mood Disorders and Types Of Mood Disorders

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): Also known as clinical depression, it is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities.
  • Bipolar Disorders: involve alternating extreme highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). It is classified into Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic Disorder.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): Formerly known as dysthymia, PDD involves long-term and chronic feelings of depression that may not reach the severity of MDD but can still significantly impact daily functioning.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, typically during the winter months when there is less sunlight. It is characterized by low mood, lethargy, and increased sleep.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): PMDD is a mood disorder that affects some women before their menstrual periods. It involves severe mood swings, irritability, and sadness or hopelessness.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD): Primarily diagnosed in children, DMDD involves severe and recurrent temper outbursts disproportionate to the situation. The child also experiences persistent irritability between the outbursts.
  • Substance-Induced Mood Disorder: This disorder occurs due to substance abuse or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. It involves significant changes in mood and emotional state.
  • Anxiety and Depression Comorbidity: Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder, can frequently coexist with depressive disorders, leading to a combination of symptoms.

It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and other mood disorders and related conditions can occur. Proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified mental health professionals are crucial for individuals experiencing symptoms related to mood disorders.

Adjustment Disorder With Mixed Anxiety And Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood is a specific subtype of adjustment disorder, a mental health condition characterized by emotional and behavioral reactions to stressful events. In this particular subtype, individuals experience a combination of symptoms related to both anxiety and depression following a significant life stressor.

People with Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood may exhibit persistent sadness, hopelessness, worry, and restlessness. They may also experience difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and a general sense of unease or tension. These symptoms often emerge within three months of the stressful event and tend to subside once the individual adapts to the new circumstances or the stressor is resolved.

The distinguishing feature of this subtype is the presence of both anxious and depressive symptoms occurring simultaneously. It reflects the emotional and psychological struggle individuals face when trying to cope with the impact of a challenging life event.

It’s important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood. Mental health professionals can provide support, offer coping strategies, and develop a personalized treatment plan to address the underlying stressor and alleviate the associated symptoms. Individuals can regain their emotional well-being and adapt to challenges with appropriate intervention.

Mood Disorders Facts

Mood disorders can result in intense sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or euphoria, significantly impacting daily functioning and quality of life. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing mood disorders and promoting emotional stability.


What are Mood Disorders?

The mood is defined as a pervasive and sustained feeling tone endured internally, impacting nearly all aspects of a person’s behavior in the external world. Mood disorders or affective disorders are described by marked emotional disruptions (severe lows called depression or highs called hypomania or mania). These are common psychiatric disorders leading to an increase in morbidity and mortality. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), mood disorders have been broadly categorized as bipolar and depressive disorders. Bipolar disorders are categorized as bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, bipolar and related disorder to another medical condition, substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder, other specified bipolar and related disorder, and unspecified bipolar and related disorder. 

Pathophysiology of Mood Disorders

Depression is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder represented by severe anhedonia (a substantial incapacity to enjoy pleasurable activities), sad mood, feelings of guilt, suicidality, and cognitive impairment. One of the primary risk factors for the development of depressive disorders is chronic stress.

The pathophysiology of constant stress results from overactivation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which increases glucocorticoid cortisol levels. Neuronal plasticity also plays a significant role in the pathophysiology of mood disorders.

Patients with poor social support show signs of impaired neuronal plasticity, predisposing them to mood disorders. Mild to moderate impairment of neuronal plasticity causes depression, while severe impairment results in mania.

Mood Disorder Questionnaire PDF

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Mood Disorders Statistics

Estimates show that nearly 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness, mood disorders included. Around 20.9 million American adults aged 18 and older have a mood disorder. Mood disorders can affect anyone at any point in life. Many factors can contribute to the development of mood disorders, and while some of the population may appear more vulnerable, no ethnic or age group is left out. 


9.7%

Approximately 9.7% of U.S. adults had any mood disorder in the past year.

Source: NIMH

11.6%

Past year prevalence of any mood disorder among adults was higher for females (11.6%) than for males (7.7%).

Source: NCBI

21.4%

An estimated 21.4% of U.S. adults experience any mood disorder at some time.

Source: NCBI


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Mood Disorder vs Personality Disorder

Mood disorders and personality disorders are distinct categories of mental health conditions. Mood disorders primarily involve emotional and regulation disruptions, while personality disorders involve enduring patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and interpersonal functioning. Mood disorders have episodic periods of intense symptoms, while personality disorders are stable and persistent. Mood disorders affect emotional well-being, while personality disorders impact overall functioning and relationships. Comorbidity can occur, and proper diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.

The symptoms of mood disorders can vary depending on the specific disorder. However, common symptoms may be present in different types of mood disorders.
The symptoms of mood disorders can vary depending on the specific disorder. However, common symptoms may be present in different types of mood disorders.

Mood Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of mood disorders can vary depending on the specific disorder. However, common symptoms may be present in different types of mood disorders. Here are some general symptoms:

  • Persistent Sadness or Low Mood: Feeling down, sad, or experiencing a depressed mood for an extended period, often lasting for weeks or longer.
  • Loss of Interest or Pleasure: Losing interest or enjoyment in activities that were once enjoyable or engaging.
  • Significant Changes in Appetite or Weight: A noticeable increase or decrease in appetite, resulting in weight gain or loss.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or excessive sleepiness (hypersomnia).
  • Fatigue or Lack of Energy: Feeling constantly tired, lacking energy, or experiencing a general weakness.
  • Feelings of Worthlessness or Excessive Guilt: Persistent feelings of self-blame, worthlessness, or excessive guilt, even when not warranted.
  • Difficulty Concentrating or Making Decisions: Finding it challenging to focus, concentrate, or make decisions, often accompanied by indecisiveness.
  • Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation: Restlessness or slowed physical and mental movements.
  • Recurrent Thoughts of Death or Suicidal Ideation: Persistent thoughts about death, dying, or contemplating suicide. It is essential to seek immediate help if experiencing these thoughts.
  • Changes in Psychomotor Activity: Unusual changes in physical movements, such as being noticeably more restless or slower than usual.
  • Irritability or Agitation: Feeling easily agitated, irritable, or having a short temper.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms can vary in intensity and duration depending on the specific mood disorder. Suppose you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms or any other concerning changes in mood. In that case, it is recommended to consult a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder Symptoms

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) symptoms typically manifest during childhood and are characterized by severe and recurrent temper outbursts. Here are some key symptoms:

  • Frequent Temper Outbursts: The child experiences frequent and severe temper tantrums that are grossly disproportionate to the situation and inconsistent with their developmental level. These outbursts can be verbal and/or physical in nature.
  • Chronic Irritability: The child displays a persistently irritable or angry mood most of the day, nearly every day, between the outbursts. This irritability is evident to others and is not solely related to the outbursts.
  • Duration and Frequency: The symptoms of temper outbursts and chronic irritability occur for at least 12 months, with very few symptom-free periods lasting more than a few days.
  • Age of Onset: DMDD symptoms typically begin before age 10, although the diagnosis cannot be made before age 6 or after age 18.
  • Impairment in Multiple Settings: The symptoms of DMDD cause significant impairment in social, academic, or other important areas of functioning. The child may have difficulties with peers, relationships, and school performance.

It is important to note that DMDD symptoms must be differentiated from normal age-appropriate temper tantrums and other mental health conditions like bipolar or oppositional defiant disorder. A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional is necessary for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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Mood Disorders Treatments

Treating mood disorders often involves a combination of various approaches tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Here are some common treatment options for mood disorders:

  • Psychotherapy: Different forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and psychodynamic therapy, can effectively treat mood disorders. These therapies help individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and improve interpersonal relationships.
  • Medications: Antidepressant medications, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms of mood disorders. The specific medication prescribed will depend on the type and severity of the disorder.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can play a significant role in managing mood disorders. Regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress can help improve mood and overall well-being.
Treating mood disorders often involves a combination of various approaches tailored to the individual's specific needs.
Treating mood disorders often involves a combination of various approaches tailored to the individual’s specific needs.
  • Supportive Relationships: Building a strong support system, including friends, family, and support groups, can provide emotional support, understanding, and encouragement throughout the treatment process.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Learning stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises, mindfulness meditation, and breathing exercises, can help individuals cope with stressors that contribute to mood disturbances.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): ECT may be considered in severe cases or when other treatments are ineffective. It involves brief electrical stimulation of the brain to induce a controlled seizure, leading to a therapeutic effect on mood.

It’s important to note that treatment approaches may vary depending on the specific type and severity of the mood disorder. A comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional is essential to determine the most appropriate and effective treatment plan.

Medications are commonly prescribed as part of the treatment for various mood disorders.
Medications are commonly prescribed as part of the treatment for various mood disorders.

Mood Disorder Medications

Medications are commonly prescribed as part of the treatment for various mood disorders. Here are some examples of medications used to manage mood disorders:

  • Antidepressants: These medications are often prescribed for major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and some anxiety disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), are commonly used. Other antidepressants, such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), may also be prescribed.
  • Mood Stabilizers: These medications are primarily used in treating bipolar disorder to help stabilize mood and prevent episodes of mania or depression. Common mood stabilizers include lithium, valproic acid (Depakote), and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
  • Antipsychotics: Atypical antipsychotic medications, such as quetiapine (Seroquel) and olanzapine (Zyprexa), may be prescribed to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder, particularly during manic or mixed episodes. They can also be used as an adjunct to antidepressants in certain cases of treatment-resistant depression.
  • Benzodiazepines: These medications, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan), are sometimes prescribed for short-term relief of severe anxiety or agitation. However, they are generally not recommended for long-term use due to the risk of dependence.

It’s important to note that medication options, dosage, and duration of treatment vary based on individual needs, symptoms, and the specific mood disorder being addressed. Medication management should always be overseen by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or prescribing physician, who can monitor the individual’s response to the medication and make any necessary adjustments.

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  1. What is an Unspecified Mood Disorder ICD 10?

    In the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision), “Unspecified Mood Disorder” is used when a clinician determines that a person’s symptoms align with a mood disorder. Still, they cannot be specifically identified or classified under any particular subtype of mood disorder. It is typically used when there is insufficient information or clarity to make a more specific diagnosis within the mood disorder category.

  2. What Are Mood Disorders in Short?

    Mood disorders refer to mental health conditions characterized by significant and persistent changes in a person’s emotional state. These disorders can affect a person’s mood, energy levels, thoughts, and behavior. Common types of mood disorders include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and various subtypes. Mood disorders can cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning and may require professional diagnosis and treatment.

  3. What is a Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder ICD 10?

    Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is a specific diagnosis listed in the ICD-10. It is characterized by severe and recurrent temper outbursts that are developmentally inappropriate and inconsistent. The outbursts occur frequently and persistently, often accompanied by a persistently irritable or angry mood between outbursts. DMDD is primarily diagnosed in children and is intended to help differentiate it from other disorders, such as bipolar or oppositional defiant disorder.

  4. Can a Mood Disorder Test Diagnose You?

    There is no single definitive “mood disorder test” that can provide a formal diagnosis. However, various assessment tools and diagnostic criteria, such as questionnaires, interviews, and clinical evaluations, can assist mental health professionals in diagnosing mood disorders. These assessments evaluate symptoms, duration, severity, and impact on daily functioning. A thorough evaluation by a qualified mental health professional is necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

  5. Is There a Mood Swing Disorder?

    “Mood Swing Disorder” is not a recognized diagnostic category in the mental health field. However, rapid and intense mood swings can be symptomatic of different mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating mania or hypomania (elevated mood) and depression. These mood swings are typically more extreme and last longer than normal fluctuations in mood. Proper evaluation and diagnosis by a mental health professional are necessary to determine the underlying cause of mood swings and provide appropriate treatment.

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  • Staying Positive
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  • Developing Coping Skills
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation Techniques

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Sources
  1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mood-disorders/index.shtml
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/index.htm
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): https://www.samhsa.gov/
  4. MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/mooddisorders.html
  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://naminycmetro.org/programs/family-friends-of-people-with-mood-disorders/
  6. Office on Women’s Health (OWH)
  7. National Institute on Aging (NIA): https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/mood-disorders
  8. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/
  9. National Institutes of Health (NIH): https://www.nih.gov/
  10. HealthFinder.gov: https://healthfinder.gov/