What are the major symptoms of a mood disorder?

CFHH Mood Disorder Window

Mood disorders are a prevalent mental health condition within the global population.

Studies show that over 20.9 million American adults suffer from various mood disorders, such as dysthymic disorder, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder.

What is a mood disorder?

There are various mood disorders where a person can experience profound mental anguish, distress, and even physical health problems.

The most common mood disorder is a major depressive disorder.

Mood swings

You will likely suffer from severe mood swings if you think you have a mood disorder.

At times you may feel extraordinarily high or agitated (manic), while other times, you may find that your mood plunges and you feel extremely low (depressed).

It might be challenging for you to understand these changeable moods, and, as a result, many people with mood disorders often experience anxiety.

It is also common for people with mood disorders to feel misunderstood by others.

Defining mood disorders

Compared to emotions, which are often fleeting and short-term, moods are chronic emotional states.

You can expect your moods to change from time to time. 

However, mood disorders have defining features that allow health professionals to distinguish between ‘normal’ mood changes and those experienced in mood disorders.

Emotional dysregulation

Mood disorders are characterized by erratic mood swings (emotional dysregulation) and emotional extremes. Most of us experience different moods throughout the day.

In a twenty-four-hour period, we may experience a range of emotions from joy, happiness, or sadness, depending on our environment and other factors.

However, a mood disorder gets defined by persistent emotional extremities that can cause dysfunction and long-term disturbances.

Mood disorders are a broad term for all types of bipolar and depressive disorders.

CFHH Mood Disorder Mirror

Types of mood disorders

There are several types of mood disorders, and the symptoms of each condition will vary between people.

A mood disorder is a mental disorder that profoundly impacts mood and other related functions. The diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM -5) separates mood disorders into two categories:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar and related disorders

Major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder or MDD is a mental health condition that can disrupt daily functioning and cause severe psychological impairment.

Depending on your symptoms and the presence of other conditions (known as concurrent disorders), you may experience only one episode of depression throughout your lifetime or have multiple depressive episodes.

The major depressive disorder involves episodes of extreme hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness and can include other symptoms such as cognitive, physical, and emotional.

Bipolar I disorder

Bipolar I disorder, previously called manic depression, involves manic episodes where people with the disorder participate in risky behaviours that result in dangerous or negative consequences for themselves or others.

The term ”mania” describes episodes of euphoria, irritable moods, and increased activity or energy levels.

Bipolar II disorder

Bipolar II disorder causes periods or cycles of depression, similar to symptoms of Bipolar I disorder.

Hypomania, a less severe form of mania, is a common symptom of Bipolar II disorder.

 A person with this disorder may experience hypomanic periods that are not as profound or disruptive.

Many people with bipolar II disorder can usually function and continue with daily tasks despite hypomanic episodes.

Cyclothymic disorder

People with cyclothymic disorder experience chronic, irregular mood swings over a long period.

Mood changes may occur suddenly and at any time. Moreover, a person with this disorder may only experience short periods of baseline mood.

Cyclothymic disorder often gets described as a milder form of bipolar disorder.

The emotional highs and lows are reported to be less intense and extreme compared to bipolar I and bipolar II.

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is a recently added disorder within the diagnostic and statistical manual.

Such a disorder often gets diagnosed in children who exhibit destructive behavioural patterns such as chronic anger and persistent episodes of significant temper outbursts without any other cause.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder features profound agitation and mood changes during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle.

People with premenstrual dysphoric disorder may experience severe symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability

Like other forms of premenstrual tension, the symptoms of this disorder usually ease once the person begins menstruating.

Seasonal affective disorder

A disorder that gets discussed often in the media and within online communities is seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The symptoms of SAD typically occur in late autumn or early winter and are a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons.

Additionally, the symptoms of SAD can be similar to major depression.

However, one of the key distinctions is that seasonal affective disorder symptoms often improve once a particular season is over.

CFHH Mood Disorder Group

Other types of mood disorders

Other types of mood disorders include:

  • Depressive disorder due to another medical condition – there is some evidence to suggest that some physical illnesses may cause depressive symptoms.
  • Bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition – like depressive disorder, this diagnosis usually occurs for people with bipolar symptoms. However, such symptoms typically get caused by a medical disease, not a mental health disorder.
  • Medication or substance-induced bipolar disorder – gets diagnosed in people experiencing bipolar disorder symptoms due to substance use, such as drugs, alcohol, or medication.

Other mood disorder types are substance/medication-induced depressive disorder, other specified or unspecified depressive disorder, and other specified or unspecified bipolar.

Symptoms of mood disorders

Since there are many mood disorders, the symptoms will be just as diverse for each individual and condition.

People with mood disorders get impacted in various ways, but typically, symptoms of mood disorders include:

  • Feeling ”flat” and lacking energy and motivation
  • Feeling withdrawn, sad, worthless, and hopeless
  • Experiencing significant feelings of guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in activities that once gave you pleasure
  • Problems with decision-making or making poor choices
  • Trouble sleeping (sleeping too much or not enough)
  • Concentration issues
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Bouts of crying
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of dying

What causes mood disorders?

It is difficult to say what causes mood disorders.

However, mood disorders typically get brought on by a combination of factors and can be:

  • Genetic
  • Environmental
  • Biological
  • Psychological

Family history

Mood disorders can run in families, meaning genetic components might be involved.

Suppose a family member has a mood disorder; this may also put you at a higher risk of developing the condition.

CFHH Mood Disorder Trauma

Environmental factors and adverse life events

On the other hand, environmental factors such as traumatic experiences or growing up in a stressful household may put a person at risk of developing a mood disorder.

Brain chemicals

People with depression or bipolar may experience specific brain changes.

For example, studies show that the brain chemical norepinephrine is significantly lacking in depressed individuals but is profoundly high during manic episodes.

Moreover, serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for happiness or feelings of well-being, is thought to be profoundly low in people with depression.

Other risk factors

Other factors that can put you at risk of a mood disorder include substance abuse and certain medications.

Depression statistics

Studies show that depression is more common in women than men; however, mental health professionals believe this might be because women tend to seek help more than men.

Depression and technology

A 2020 study revealed that depression is becoming more prevalent among American adolescents.

One suggestion is that social media could significantly affect young adults’ mental health.

The study found that heavy social media users were twice as likely to be depressed or experience low well-being than light users.

Experts say that although technology is not the root cause of depression, excessive internet usage could be a contributory factor.

CFHH Mood Disorder Wellness Illness

Seeking help

If you or someone you know is experiencing mood disorder symptoms, you must seek help from a health professional, as it’s unlikely that the symptoms will go away on their own.

Treatment options

There are many treatment options for mood disorders, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, family therapy, and prescribed medication.

If you are concerned, it might be helpful to speak to your doctor or a mental health professional who can advise you on the next steps.
The Centres for Health and Healing team is always on hand to offer help and support – contact us today for more information.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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