What are mood disorders?

Mood disorders are mental health problems that generally affects people's emotional state. People with mood disorders experience long periods of extreme happiness, sadness or both. They may affect anyone, including children. The exact cause of mood disorders is unknown, however, they may be linked to risk factors such as family history, trauma, brain structure and function or the use of certain medications.

Types of mood disorders:

There are different types of mood disorders, namely:

  • DepressionDepression plagues millions of people. Depression is commonly described as persistent sadness, tearfulness for most part of the day, feeling down and having no interest or pleasure in normally enjoyed activities. Grief and sadness respond to a traumatic event or crisis such as bereavement, loss of a job, or an illness. Depression is an ongoing mood disorder, not a passing one, which involves episodes that may last weeks, months or years.
    Signs of depression include, but are not limited to, fatigue or loss of energy, sleep disturbance, changes in appetite, rumination, agitation/restlessness, social withdrawal.
  • Bipolar Mood disorder Also called manic depression, bipolar is a mental disorder that causes a severe high that can last from 4 days (hypomanic) to more than a week (manic) in which the individual has exaggerated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, is talkative, impulsive and experiences physical restlessness. The manic is then followed by a depressive episode.

Bipolar  mood disorders can be divided into three categories: Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2 and Cyclothymic disorder.

Bipolar disorders are associated with various features and comorbid conditions. For example, mixed features,  three or more symptoms of hypomania/mania or depression occurring during an episode from the opposite pole are common with bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. Mixed features are important to note because hypomania/manic symptoms occur with depressive symptoms, the risk of impulsive behaviour such as suicidal acts. Another example is rapid cycling, a pattern when there are four more mood episodes per year.

How are mood disorders treated?

Mood disorder treatment depends on the specific mood disorder diagnosed and the symptoms experienced. Therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy may be recommended to treat mood disorders. Treatment may involve a combination of medication such as antidepressants and mood stabilisers combined with psychotherapy.

1When do mood disorders typically begin?
Mood disorders can begin at any time in one's life and can be linked to life events or stress.
2Are mood disorders caused by genetics?
Mood disorders are influenced by genetics, however, as with many other mental disorders, it seems as if many different genes, each with relatively small influence, interact with various environmental factors to produce a mood disorder (Lohoff, 2010).
3Is there a difference between mood and personality disorders?
Yes. A mood disorder is a mental condition that affects one's emotional state. Personality disorders are disorders that affect how one thinks, interprets their surroundings and interacts with others. Personality disorders are character organisations that cause distress for the individual and those who interact with the individual.