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Mood Disorders Overview

Mood is defined as the emotional state of an individual. When an individuals moods are thought to have abnormal fluctuations, such as severe depression or mania, they may have one of several mood disorders. Mood disorders can have a significant impact on an individuals daily life. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in the United States, one in four adults or approximately 57.7 million adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. They are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada, for people between the ages of 15-44. Many people have more than one of the mental or mood disorders, at a time.

In a five-year study, supported by World Health Organization, World Bank and Harvard School of Public Health, researchers developed a system for creating a Burden of Disease measure of health status. The study entitled “The Global Burden of Diseases” (1990 study), states that one percent of deaths occur from psychiatric conditions, however, these conditions account for 11 percent of disease burden worldwide. By 2020, it is expected to account for 15 percent.

Mood disorders commonly coexist with other mental and somatic disorders.

Types of Mood Disorders

Major Depression

Major Depression disorder ranks first, among mental and mood disorders, of the top 10 causes of worldwide disability. Depression is twice as common in women than in men, and it ranks as the leading cause of disease in women. The average onset of depression is between the ages of 25 and 35 years old.

Depression can occur in individuals for a short time or because of some unexpected experience in their life. However, when a severe depression episode lasts for more than two weeks and several symptoms of depression are involved, a major depression disorder may be the culprit.

Symptoms of Depression May Include:

  • Sadness, irritability and anxiousness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Excessive crying for no reason
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overeating or Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


Without treatment, severe depression typically becomes worse. Common treatments for depression include antidepressants similar to those used to treat several other mood disorders, along with psychotherapy.

Bipolar Disorder

This disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness. It is a serious medical illness of the mood disorders. It is characterized by extreme mood swings, either depression episodes or manic episodes, followed by periods of normal, balanced behavior. The episodes can last a few days, months or years.

Over 2 million people in the United States are affected by bipolar disease, one of the worst of the mood disorders. It is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. It is common for an individual with bipolar disease to have close relatives with mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder or depression. As many as one in five individuals who have bipolar disease, will commit suicide during a depression state. Bipolar will often develop in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Symptoms May Include:

  • Depression episode:
  • Depression symptoms as state above
  • Manic episode:
  • Elated moods
  • Racing thoughts
  • Extreme irritability
  • reckless behavior
  • Feeling of euphoria or elation
  • Extremely talkative
  • Insomnia
  • High energy
  • Difficulty concentration
  • Increased activity
  • Poor judgment
  • Aggressive behavior


Bipolar normally lasts a lifetime. It tends to worsen if not treated. Mood stabilizing medications, atypical antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants are often used for bipolar disorder.


Of the mood disorders, this can be considered a less severe disorder. Dysthmia is a chronic disturbance, in which an individual reports a low mood or depression, almost daily, over a two year period. However, the symptoms are not as severe as those for major depression disorder. Often, the person is thought to be neurotic because their self-concept or personality is so intertwined in their depression. Women are twice as likely as men to have this mood disorder.


The treatment for Dysthymia is normally the use of antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy, the same treatment that is used for major depression.


This is a less severe disorder of the mood disorders. It is very similar to Bipolar disorder, except that the symptoms are much less harsh. It is characterized by short periods of mild depression and mania. Mood swings seem to occur more frequently in individuals with cyclothmia. These cycles usually follow several months of normal and balanced moods.


Cyclothymia is treated similarly to bipolar disorder. Antimanic drugs, antidepressants and psychotherapy can help treat this condition.

Schizoaffective Disorder

This is one of the harder diseases to treat of the mood disorders. This disorder causes an individual to experience episodes of schizophrenia, a mental illness that impairs an individuals ability to perceive reality, and intense mood swings. The person may suffer from paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. They may have extreme mood changes and severe depression.


Treatment may include psychotherapy and prescription antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Temporary affective disorder is the only disorder of several mood disorders that may not need medication or therapy. It is directly related to weather changes. An individual with seasonal affect disorder SAD may become extremely tired or restless when the weather becomes cold and dark. Autumn and winter are the most common time for this disorder.
The most common type of SAD is bipolar disorder, however, once the weather reverts back to the individuals preferred state, the disorder will diminish.


This disorder usually subsides, without treatment, once the weather changes.

Causes of Mood Disorders

Research has shown that serious brain disorders may cause mood disorders Imbalances in the chemical activity of the brain may be the main culprit. However, environmental factors can also play a part in elevating the problem, as well as an individuals genetics.

Effects of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders not only affect the patient who is involved. Spouses, children, parents, siblings and friends experience frustration and hardship with an individual that has one of several mood disorders. The financial burden can also have a great effect on the family. At times, physical abuse may come into play. The patient may have guilt and anger issues because of the disorder.

The burden of mood disorders and mental illness also has a very negative effect on the economy in the United States and world wide. The amount of lost work time, diminished productivity and the health care resources used for mental disorders, are a huge burden to society. The burden of these mood disorders are greater than what is caused by all cancers combined.

Most individuals with a mood disorder, can lead a productive life with treatment. They are normally treatable with psychotherapy, individual, group and in severe cases, in-care counseling centers, and medication.


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