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Personality Disorder vs Mood Disorder: A Comparison Guide

1 out of 5 adults in the US are severely affected by one or more serious mental illnesses. Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia prevent them from leading meaningful and productive lives.

Diagnosing mental health problems can be tricky as there is a high likelihood of misdiagnosis due to comorbidities and too many overlapping symptoms.

Therefore, mental health awareness can go a long way in equipping you and your loved ones with actionable information or the right tools for dealing with a particular mental health disorder.

Additionally, these educational resources will not only come in handy to help with therapy and proper rehabilitation but also reduce the social stigma surrounding mental health illnesses. It’s crucial for long-term recovery and to prevent relapse of symptoms.

Mood disorders and personality disorders are also subjected to similar confusion. They are often intertwined and tend to be misdiagnosed due to their complexity. I will break down the differences between them in this article.

What is a Mood Disorder?

What is a Mood Disorder

This section will help you understand mood disorders in detail and also cover the causes and symptoms.

Mood disorders are serious and can hamper your ability to function and work daily due to sudden mood fluctuations.

It’s a mental condition mainly characterized by a chronic, volatile emotional state that persists almost every day.

Also, it is unfortunate that if you are suffering from a mood disorder, you will not be able to have much control over these constant mood shifts. Here are the different types of mood disorders according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition 5):

  • Bipolar disorder I and II
  • Unspecified bipolar disorder
  • Medication-induced bipolar disorder
  • Substance or drug-induced mood disorder
  • Major depressive disorder or clinical depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder or SAD
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation
  • Hypomania
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Causes and Symptoms of Mood Disorders

There is a combination of multiple causes and factors at play when it comes to what exactly triggers or leads to mood disorders.

1. Major Causes of Mood Disorders

Major Causes of Mood Disorders

A brain imaging test can scan the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex, which primarily take care of emotional regulation. It has generally been observed that patients suffering from a larger-than-normal amygdala are more susceptible to various mood disorders.

There are several other reasons, too, but it is hard to pinpoint one particular cause triggering mood disorders. However, it has been established that disruptions in the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex have a direct connection with many mood disorders.

Genetics can also play a crucial role in the development of mood disorders. Children of parents with mood disorders are more likely to be affected in the future.

Certain medical conditions can directly cause mood disorders such as Cancer, Influenza, tumors in the brain, HIV/AIDS, Encephalitis, CNS Syphilis, Hypothyroidism, Delirium, Q fever, etc.

In some cases of depressed and bipolar patients, neuroimmunological causes can trigger certain mood disorders due to drastic changes in the body’s NO (nitric oxide) levels.

Significant hormonal alterations such as Intense HPA( hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) or a rise in TSH levels are also linked to severe depressive symptoms.

Apart from this, life situations can also affect your emotional state. Past trauma, stress, and bad/abusive childhood early on in life can cause an earlier-than-expected onset of various mood disorders.

2. Key Symptoms of Mood Disorders

  • Extreme mood swings, including both highs and lows
  • Constant frustration and irritability
  • Highly unpredictable and impulsive behavior
  • Reckless actions
  • Difficulty in concentrating on work/studies affecting performance
  • Intense fluctuations in energy levels
  • Weight and appetite fluctuations
  • Extended periods of manic and depressive episodes
  • Lack of patience and excessive anxiety

What is a Personality Disorder?

What is a Personality Disorder

This section covers the meaning of personality disorders and how they can be recognized.

Identifying and treating personality disorders is one of the most challenging tasks in psychiatry. It consists of various mental conditions characterized by problematic lifelong habits, causing patients to behave in a dysfunctional manner.

Emotional regulation, actions, and cognitive abilities of patients with personality disorders are persistent and flawed, making interactions at work and socializing difficult.

Unpleasant social experiences, bad relationships, compromised work interactions, unregulated emotional states, flawed emotional responses, and weird self-perceptions are hallmarks of patients battling personality disorders.

Here are the 10 different types of personality disorders categorized into different 3 primary clusters – A, B, and C:

Cluster ACluster BCluster C
Paranoid personality disorderBorderline personality disorderObsessive-compulsive disorder
Schizoid personality disorderAntisocial personality disorderDependent personality disorder
Schizotypal personality disorderNarcissistic personality disorderAvoidant personality disorder
Histrionic personality disorder

These mental illnesses predominantly indicate chronic dysfunctional thought patterns and emotions, which can trigger a lot of distress and inappropriate behavior, especially in social situations.

Generally, people with one of the above personality disorders tend to have intensely distorted worldviews, which can lead to extreme anguish and bad coping strategies.

Causes and Symptoms of Personality Disorders

Scientifically, there is little clarity on the definite causes of personality disorders. Different clusters of personality-related mental conditions display different symptoms. It, therefore, calls for individual cluster-based understanding to approach proper evaluation and treatment.

1. Causes of Personality Disorders

Causes of Personality Disorders

Human personality is the hardest to decode as it is a combined product of genetics, circumstances, upbringing, and environment.

So, here are some possible causes of personality disorders. These may or may not trigger personality disorders, and the responses will differ from individual to individual.

Genetic factors such as family history, being born with specific personality traits, or inheriting certain traits from parents can make individuals susceptible to Personality disorders.

Extreme poverty, a troublesome childhood due to family conflicts, and bullying in school/college/high school are also likely to trigger personality disorders in adulthood.

Past traumatic experiences, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, incidents like the loss of loved ones, and road accidents, may contribute to personality disorders in the future if you are too sensitive.

Unsupportive parents, elders, or guardians who hurt your self-esteem can also cause long-term personality damage.

2. Symptoms of Personality Disorders

Different personality disorders in different clusters show different symptoms.

  • Cluster A symptoms indicate an offbeat person with trust issues.
  • Schizophrenic patients in Cluster A tend to be socially isolated and have trouble maintaining relationships due to low sex drive and high unresponsiveness.
  • Patients suffering from Cluster B personality disorders are prone to intense emotional outbursts and unsafe or criminal actions done impulsively.
  • Cluster B patients tend to be very violent against others around them, including animals, and have been linked to frequently breaking social norms.
  • Cluster B personality disorders may also tend to produce pathological liars who are manipulative, irresponsible, and extremely irrational.
  • Those affected by histrionic personality disorder tend to be overly self-absorbed and fixated on their own world.
  • People with narcissistic personality disorder may act overly entitled, demand attention, lack empathy, and have an inflated sense of self-importance.
  • Patients with cluster C personality disorders generally show signs of low self-esteem and extreme skepticism of critical opinion or feedback.

How are Mood and Personality Disorders Different from One Another?

Mood disorders and Personality-related mental illnesses can negatively impact daily life and professional and personal relationships. However, there are many differences between them in terms of how they are characterized and manifested overall.

Both types of mental disorders fall under the umbrella of serious mental illnesses. Yet they are distinct and must be approached differently based on their root causes or specific symptoms, their severity, and the basic awareness that they are inherently two different psychological issues.

Disturbed emotional patterns characterize mood disorders. In comparison, unfavorable responses to general adjustments in life and severe interaction or interpersonal difficulties form the core of personality disorders.

I am summarizing all the distinguishing features in the table below:

Mood DisordersPersonality Disorders
They are caused by physiological issues or life changes that demand adjustment or adaptation.Personality disorders are not caused by specific triggers or circumstances
They take a huge toll on the emotional state of the patientThey  are characterized by haphazard lifestyles, faulty preconceived notions, rigid habits, weird stubbornness, or refusal to adapt to new beliefs
The thoughts have no specific pattern, and their resultant behavior is highly disconnected, lacking consistencyThere is uniformity and consistency in most thought patterns and behaviors
The behavior is unpredictable and lacks continuityThe behavior is consistently beyond conventional societal norms
Patients struggle to maintain stability in their moods and experience bouts of extreme emotions like being too happy or too sad for an unknown periodPatients suffer from maintaining long-term relationships, have trust issues, and have low self-esteem
Multiple approved treatments are available, such as psychotherapy, psychiatry involving medication-based protocol, brain stimulation, and so onNo specific treatment has been approved as yet, but most treatments focus on inducing positive behavioral changes in patients

Effective Treatments

Effective Treatments

A healthy lifestyle, psychotherapy, holistic pharmacotherapy/psychiatry, and brain stimulation therapies can do wonders for alleviating symptoms of mood disorders.

However, a comprehensive physical and mental health evaluation of the patients is mandatory before starting any treatment protocol.

There are no approved medications yet for treating personality disorders. Therefore, it all comes down to improving the behavior of the patients in the long run.

Evaluating and diagnosing personality disorders can be quite a task as the medical professional has to be extremely cautious about provoking the patients. The best way to go about this is to gather crucial insights by interviewing people who share a close bond with the patient.

The next step is to apply the DSM-5 criteria to the collected data for the most appropriate cluster-wise categorization and diagnosis.

Cluster A conditions can be approached with social skills enhancement supported by antipsychotics. In comparison, talk therapy can go a long way in effectively addressing Cluster B disorders.

Treating Narcissistic personality disorder may be tricky, but trying out psychodynamic psychotherapy makes sense. People with Cluster C disorders can greatly benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy supplemented by SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

Conclusion

I hope you find this comparison guide helpful. Understanding the key differences between personality and mood disorders will empower you to seek help.

If you suspect you may be battling these disorders, do not shy away from seeking professional counseling and psychiatric assistance.

Also, share this article with your friends and loved ones to spread awareness and encourage the people around you to take the right action at the right time for their mental health.

Stay healthy, stay happy!

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