Mood Disorders

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Overview of Mood Disorders

What are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders are disturbances in a person’s emotional state, leading to pervasive and often debilitating shifts in mood. These disorders encompass a range of conditions, with the two most common types being depression and bipolar disorder. Other mood disorders may involve less extreme mood fluctuations or be triggered by specific situations. 

Mood disorders can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being, and often require therapeutic for effective management and treatment.

Types of Mood Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a severe and persistent mental health condition marked by a profound and persistent low mood, loss of interest in activities, and various emotional and physical symptoms. These symptoms can disrupt daily life and lead to significant distress.

There are different types of depression, such as major depression, seasonal affective disorder, persistent depressive disorder, perinatal depression, and more.

Depression is often caused by a combination of factors, environmental stress or trauma, genetics, and physiological factors.

Major Depressive Disorder Symptoms

  • Consistently feeling sad
  • Irritability/anger outbursts
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
  • Low energy or motivation
  • Poor school/work performance
  • Less pleasure from enjoyed activities
  • Isolation & loneliness
  • Sleeping or Eating more or less than usual
  • Unexplained physical pain – headaches or stomachaches (especially in children)
  • Thoughts of death or harming yourself (for immediate help, dial 988)

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder (also called manic depression or bipolar affective disorder) is characterized by extreme mood swings that fluctuate between episodes of mania and depression. During manic phases, individuals experience heightened energy, impulsivity, and euphoria, often leading to risky behavior and impaired judgment. In contrast, depressive episodes involve persistent sadness, loss of interest, fatigue, and other symptoms similar to major depression.

Bipolar Mania Symptoms

  • Excessive chattiness
  • Reduced requirement for sleep
  • Unusually euphoric, restless, or highly charged
  • Heightened levels of activity, energy, or restlessness
  • Excessive feelings of happiness and self-assurance (euphoria)
  • Swift, racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Impaired judgment

Bipolar Depressive Symptoms

  • Overwhelming sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities (anhedonia)
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors (for immediate help, dial 988)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression characterized by recurring episodes of depressive symptoms that typically occur during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are reduced. SAD is thought to be linked to changes in light exposure, which can disrupt circadian rhythms and affect neurotransmitters like serotonin. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

  • Experiencing persistent daily depression
  • Struggling with sleep disturbances
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Feeling either lethargic or agitated
  • Encountering fluctuations in appetite or body weight
  • Suffering from reduced energy levels
  • Experiencing difficulties in concentration
  • Dealing with frequent thoughts of death or suicide (for immediate help, dial 988)

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of clinical depression that affects some women after childbirth. It typically emerges within the first few weeks to months following delivery, although it can develop later.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Frequent and unexplained outbursts of crying
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Typically diagnosed in children and adolescents, DMDD involves persistent irritability and anger between outbursts. The disorder provides a diagnostic category for children who exhibit chronic irritability and frequent, severe temper tantrums but do not fit the criteria for other mood disorders.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder Symptoms

  • Frequent Temper Outbursts

  • Persistent irritability or angry mood most of the day, nearly every day

  • Chronic and persistent temper outbursts for at least 12 months and occur in at least two settings (e.g., home, school, with peers)

  • No manic or hypomanic episodes

  • Shows signs of symptoms before the age of 10


Other Mood Disorders

There are other mood disorders including cyclothymia, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Consult with your provider to determine a correct diagnosis.

Diagnosis & Treatments of Mood Disorders

How are mood disorders diagnosed?

It’s essential to schedule an appointment with your provider promptly. Your provider will be able to diagnose you through therapy sessions.
Mood disorders don’t typically resolve on their own and may worsen over time.  Seeking professional help early can facilitate more effective treatment and improve your prospects for recovery.

How are mood disorders treated?

Psychologists can provide various therapy services such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy. Your doctor will work with you to see which treatment is the best for you. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy focuses on helping individuals recognize unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. CBT involves techniques where negative thought patterns are replaced with more balanced ones. This therapy has been well-studied and is typically used by professionals.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This is a comprehensive and evidence-based psychotherapy designed to help individuals with emotional regulation difficulties. It focuses on teaching individuals how to manage intense emotions and reduce self-destructive behaviors. DBT emphasizes four key skill sets: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

This therapy focuses on improving relationships and social functioning to alleviate emotional distress and mental health issues. IPT explores communication patterns, role expectations, and conflict resolution skills.

Additional Help

Individuals with mood disorders are highly encouraged to seek professional help. In addition to therapy, individuals may benefit from:

  • Sleeping at least 8 hours each night
  • Regular exercise and a healthy diet
  • Connect with people and gain a support system
  • Set realistic goals for each day
  • Avoid unprescribed medication, alcohol, and drugs
  • See your family doctor if medication with therapy is right for you

To request an appointment with a provider, fill out this form.

Resources for Mood Disorder

Mood Disorders (Mental Health America)

Overview of Mood Disorders (Johns Hopkins Medicine)

Symptoms and Causes of Mood Disorders (Mayo Clinic)

Mood Disorders in Kids (Child Mind Institute)

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