Mood Disorders HealthQM

What Is a Mood Disorder?

A mood disorder is an emotional state or mood characterized by inconsistency or swings in expressing emotions such as sadness, irritability, aggressivity, impulsivity, and excessive happiness.

In the US, it was estimated that about 21.4 % of adults would experience a mood disorder in their life [1].

In the UK, it was estimated that 1 in 5 people are affected by mood disorders [2].

2- How Do You Know If You Have a Mood Disorder?

Symptoms depend on the type of the mood disorder and may include the following:

  • Persistence state of sadness
  • Feeling empty or worthless
  • Difficulty focusing or too many thoughts
  • Loss of interest in thinks you previously enjoyed doing
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Fatigue or excessive energetic movements
  • Sleep disorder or Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Risk taking behavior

1- What Are the Causes of Mood Disorders?

  • Family history

Higher rates of mood disorders were associated with a family history of affective disorders and instability [3].

  • Life changing

Life-changing events such as death, trauma, or divorce can be triggers for depression and mood disorders.

  • Physical illness

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s diseases, and cardiovascular diseases can result in depression and mood disorders in affected individuals.

  •  Medications

Some medications can cause mood disorders such as antiepileptic drugs, interferon (IFN), corticosteroids, and digoxin [4][5].

  • Substance Abuse

Alcohol, cocaine, opioids (e.g., heroin) can cause mood disorders [6].

  • Brain structure and function

Using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology, mood disorders have been associated with alterations in certain regions of the brain including the frontal lobe, the thalamus, the striatum, the parietal lobe, and the hippocampus that are involved in brain connections that control the frontal‐subcortical circuit, the suicide circuit, and the reward circuit [7].

  • Previous Diagnosis with Mood Disorder

Some types of mood disorders can result in a progression into different types of mood disorders.

3- What Are the Types of Mood Disorders?

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or depression is a debilitating mental disorder characterized by a depressed mood (low mood), low self-esteem, and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.

Major depression can be due to genetic factors (family history) or health issues.

It was estimated that around 7.1% of US adults had a least one major depression in their life [8].

Major depression was more prevalent in women (8.7%) than men (5.3%).

  • Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by mood swings between periods of depression (depressive episodes), and elevated mood that can be severe known as mania (manic episode), or less severe known as hypomania.

Sometimes both depressive and mania episodes happen at the same time.

Bipolar symptoms include symptoms associated with depressive and manic episodes:

Depressive Episodes Symptoms

These include a persistent state of sadness, low self-esteem, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss or gain of weight, lack of focus, feeling empty or worthless, guilt, sleep disorders, and suicidal thoughts [10].

Manic Episode Symptoms

These include irritability, mood swings between delirium and euphoria, impulsivity, excessive energetic movements, lack of restraining, fast thoughts, and risk-taking behavior.

Hypomanic Episode Symptoms

These symptoms are characterized by an unjustifiable elevation in mood, a lack of restraining, and a reduced need for sleep.

There are 2 types of bipolar disorder: a severe bipolar disorder known as bipolar I and a less severe one known as bipolar II.

It is estimated that 2.8% of US adults had bipolar disorder during their lifetime [10].

  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Cyclothymia is a mood disorder characterized by depressive episodes, elevated mood, and hypomania but without meeting the criteria of bipolar disorder [11].

Symptoms of cyclothymia include depressed mood, irritability, low self-esteem, helplessness, insomnia, fatigue, inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia), lack of motivation, headaches, and suicidal thoughts. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression characterized by major depressive episodes in the fall/winter and remissions in spring/summer.

The symptoms include persistent low mood, lack of interest, irritability, lack of energy, irritability, longer hours of sleep, withdrawal from social situations, and craving for carbohydrates.

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD)

This mood disorder occurs before menstruation with moderate to severe symptoms that include anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, low self-esteem, decreased interest in activities, difficulty focusing, hypersomnia or insomnia, and anger [12].

  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

This mental disorder affects children and adolescents and manifests with persistent irritability, anger, and frequent temper outbursts [13].

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) 

Dysthymia is a mood disorder that has characteristics of moderate depression but that lasts for a longer period (more than two years).

The symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, hypersomnia, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.

It is estimated that 2.5% of US adults had dysthymia during their lifetime [14].

  • Depression Induced by Substance Use or Medication

This type of mood disorder is associated with the induction of changes in certain parts of the brain and alterations in the activity of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, neuropeptide Y, and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF).

Symptoms include depressive mood, fatigue, irritability, low self-esteem, insomnia, psychomotor retardation, and suicidal thoughts which can progress to manic symptoms [15].

  • Depression Related to Medical Illness

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s diseases, and cardiovascular diseases affect the individual purpose and meaning of life which can result in depression [16].

  • Atypical Depression

Individuals that are affected by this type of depression have similar symptoms as dysthymia or major depression but have higher reactions to their environment such as positive events or rejection [17].

  • Psychotic Major Depression (Psychotic Depression, Depressive Psychosis)

Psychotic Major Depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms of major depression, hallucinations, and dilutions [18].

  • Melancholic Depression

This type of depression is mostly biologically caused and is characterized by depressed mood, low self-esteem, fatigue, anorexia, excessive guilt, slow movement, absence of reactions to the environment, and lack of motivation [19].

  • Postpartum Depression (Postnatal Depression)

Postpartum Depression is a mood disorder that manifests after childbirth and is characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, sadness, fatigue, sleep disorder, irritability, and the tendency to often cry [20].

3- How Do You Deal with Mood Disorders?


For the treatment of depression selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are used.

Mood Stabilizers

These medications are used to modulate mood swings particularly in individuals with bipolar disorder.


These medications are used for the treatment of manic or depressive and manic episodes.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is used for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

This involves counseling sessions and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Brain Stimulation Therapy

When treatments with medications are not successful for bipolar disorder patients, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used, which consists in applying current impulses on the patient scalp or forehead to inhibit or activate the brain [21].

Other brain stimulation therapies are also used such as stimulation Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate specific nerve cells in the brain.


Mood disorders are very common and affect millions of people; however, only half of the people affected with mental diseases receive treatment. Therefore, it is essential to increase awareness, improve detection methods, and make treatment available to all affected individuals to prevent cases of extreme desperation associated with suicidal thoughts.

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