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Understanding Mood Disorders: Causes and Treatment

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Excessive grief and sadness can cause mood fluctuations for a limited period of time. However, unexplainable, long-lasting mood swings may indicate that you might be experiencing severe mood disorders that are far more complex.

They are serious psychiatric problems that need urgent medical attention to prevent harsher consequences later, such as suicide and psychosis.

Mood disorders trigger intense emotional extremes and can have a profound impact on your behavior and day-to-day interactions with others. Depression, bipolar disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and more such mental illnesses fall in this broad category. This article will help you uncover more details.

Prevalence of Mood Disorders in Adults

The National Institute of Mental Health states that approximately 21.4 percent of adults in the US suffer from different types of mood disorders at some point in their lifetime. Moreover, around 45 percent of people were diagnosed with severe mood disorders, and 40 percent of them had moderate impairment.

Mood disorders are also a global concern. According to the World Health Organization, over 280 million people worldwide are severely affected by at least one mood disorder.

This calls for proper awareness and a thorough understanding of the underlying causes and treatments for mood disorders.

What are Mood Disorders?

What are Mood Disorders

Mood disorders go beyond basic mood swings and can cause long bouts of extreme emotions such as intense stress, anger, sadness, sudden excitement, happiness, etc.

They are characterized by extended periods of tremendously fluctuating or volatile emotional states lasting several weeks or months. So much so that they severely affect everyday functions, work, and routine activities.

Depression and bipolar disorder are the most commonly observed mood disorders globally. However, there are more on the list; we will cover them in detail in the next section.

Types of Mood Disorders

Before we explain the different types of mood disorders, it is important to know that anxiety is not officially classified as a mood disorder. It can, however, exist as a comorbidity along with a particular mood disorder, or it can also be one of the many symptoms of any mood disorder.

1. Depression


Depression can be defined as a feeling of persistent sadness wherein you feel down in the dumps for no specific reason and for prolonged periods. Depressive symptoms trigger feelings of total disinterest and isolation. They also cause challenges with daily functioning.

Depression can further be classified as Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Postpartum Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

In its extreme form, depression can also result in psychosis characterized by severe delusions, repeated hallucinations, and serious depressive episodes marked by dangerously violent or suicidal tendencies.

2. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depressive disorder, characterized by random extremities in emotional states. People suffering from bipolar disorder experience unpredictable depressive, manic, and hypomanic episodes.

It is a chronic mental illness similar to depression that can negatively impact both your personal and professional lives.

Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymia Disorder are the different subtypes of bipolar disorder based on the severity of symptoms and the duration of manic, depressive, or hypomanic episodes.

3. Intermittent Explosive Disorder or IED

Intermittent Explosive Disorder or IED

If the patient’s anger spirals out of control and results in an impulsive, aggressive outburst such that the bout of rage is unjustified to the situation, the patient might be struggling with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. As the name suggests, people affected by IED pretty much “explode” without any warning or provocation. Common behavior includes violence, road rage, destruction of property, attacking others with objects, etc.

4. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome, also commonly known as PMS, which affects women one or two weeks before their monthly period.

PMDD is similar, but the symptoms are way more intense. However, this mental disorder is not chronic, and the symptoms, such as moodiness, irritability, anxiety, etc., are likely to improve once your menstrual cycle begins.

5. Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

Substance-induced Mood Disorder is triggered majorly due to mindless alcohol and drug abuse. This can also lead to other comorbidities such as depression, personality disorder, or bipolar disorder.

Substance-induced Mood disorder can have negative effects on your behavior and cognitive abilities. Therefore, it can not only affect your mood but also massively disrupt your daily functioning, including your sleep pattern, appetite as well as your physical health.

6. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder or DMDD

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder is generally diagnosed in children/teenagers and is characterized by extreme frustration or anger, chronic temper tantrums at home or school, and irritability.

The risk factors and probable causes of DMDD are still being researched.

Causes of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are the most complex type of mental illness, and their exact origins are not yet known. We cannot attribute it to one particular cause. So, here are the most common causes of mood disorders:

  • Chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Past trauma
  • Stressful experiences or environment
  • Genetics
  • History of violence, sexual assault, and physical abuse in the past
  • Traumatic childhood
  • Disproportionately sized amygdala in the brain
  • Family history of heart diseases
  • A direct result of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes or thyroid issues

Symptoms and Treatment of Mood Disorders

Symptoms and Treatment of Mood Disorders

Diagnosis is the trickiest part because shifts in moods are not so easy to predict, especially when you have a mood disorder. So, distinguishing between general mood swings and a serious mood disorder is the challenge.

It would, therefore, help if you understand the symptoms first to get a better idea of how to proceed with treatment.

1. Common Symptoms of Mood Disorders

  • Feeling extremely restless and fidgety
  • Constantly dulled down energy levels
  • Complete loss of interest in daily activities, even hobbies
  • No motivation to get started with the day
  • Feeling extremely sad and hopeless for no apparent reason and for days/weeks/months on end
  • Constant irritability and frustration
  • Perpetual insomnia due to erratic sleep patterns
  • Frequent engagement in dangerous behavior such as unprotected sex, reckless stunts, overspeeding, etc
  • Persistent inability to focus on work or studies
  • Feeling tired and exhausted of everything around you
  • Inability to put up with social interactions and be enthusiastic about romantic relationships
  • Tendency to isolate yourself for extended periods
  • Erratic eating schedule and tendency to binge eat or rely on junk food
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts in extreme cases

2. Treatment for Mood Disorders

A thorough physical and psychological examination would be the first step to rule out other possible physiological triggers. Your doctor may also follow the guidelines set by the American Psychiatric Association to facilitate a correct diagnosis.

The physician can evaluate you at a preliminary stage and then recommend a detailed psychiatric analysis by a dedicated mental healthcare provider.

Unlike most diseases, mood disorders cannot be entirely prevented, but it is always advisable to reach out for help as early as you can for timely diagnosis and treatment. This way, your symptoms do not flare up, and you can lead a sustainable, healthy life.

Here are the most widely accepted treatment options for mood disorders:

  • Psychotherapy includes various talk therapy techniques such as CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, etc.
  • Participating in support groups to make you feel you are not the only one struggling with a mood disorder
  • Light therapy, Interpersonal therapy, ECT or electroconvulsive therapy, and Transcranial magnetic stimulation for the brain are some additional approaches for treatment-resistant cases
  • Severe mood disorders will need long-term medication management, and the prescription will depend on individual cases. Generally, antidepressants such as SSRIs or SNRIs are prescribed. Mood stabilizers and neuroleptics may also be used after assessing your mood disorders and their severity
  • Family or couples therapy can also help support primary treatment protocols to improve outcomes


Mood Disorders are treatable. On-time diagnosis with the right treatment can help you lead sustainable, healthier, and happier lives forever. It is just a matter of time until your doctor finds the correct mix of treatment approaches that works perfectly for you.

Remember that the symptoms have a very high likelihood of relapsing. Therefore, consistent treatment and regular prescription modifications hold the key to the successful management of your mood disorder.

In the meantime, keep your psychiatric provider in the loop and continue educating yourself as well as others around you about mood disorders to get enough support you need for complete recovery. Keep at it for the best results!

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