Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are conditions that affect the way a person feels emotionally. The main mood disorders include:

  • Depression.

  • Bipolar disorder.

  • Dysthymia. Dysthymia is a mild, lasting (chronic) depression. Symptoms of dysthymia are similar to depression, but not as severe.

  • Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia includes mood swings, but the highs and lows are not as severe as they are in bipolar disorder. Symptoms of cyclothymia are similar to those of bipolar disorder, but less extreme.


Mood disorders are probably caused by a combination of factors. People with mood disorders seem to have physical and chemical changes in their brains. Mood disorders run in families, so there may be genetic causes. Severe trauma or stressful life events may also increase the risk of mood disorders.


Symptoms of mood disorders depend on the specific type of condition.

Depression symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, worthless, or hopeless.

  • Negative thoughts.

  • Inability to enjoy one's usual activities.

  • Low energy.

  • Sleeping too much or too little.

  • Appetite changes.

  • Crying.

  • Concentration problems.

  • Thoughts of harming oneself.

Bipolar disorder symptoms include:

  • Periods of depression (see above symptoms).

  • Mood swings, from sadness and depression, to abnormal elation and excitement.

  • Periods of mania:

  • Racing thoughts.

  • Fast speech.

  • Poor judgment, and careless, dangerous choices.

  • Decreased need for sleep.

  • Risky behavior.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Irritability.

  • Increased energy.

  • Increased sex drive.


There are no blood tests or X-rays that can confirm a mood disorder. However, your caregiver may choose to run some tests to make sure that there is not another physical cause for your symptoms. A mood disorder is usually diagnosed after an in-depth interview with a caregiver.


Mood disorders can be treated with one or more of the following:

  • Medicine. This may include antidepressants, mood-stabilizers, or anti-psychotics.

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy).

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. You are taught to recognize negative thoughts and behavior patterns, and replace them with healthy thoughts and behaviors.

  • Electroconvulsive therapy. For very severe cases of deep depression, a series of treatments in which an electrical current is applied to the brain.

  • Vagus nerve stimulation. A pulse of electricity is applied to a portion of the brain.

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation. Powerful magnets are placed on the head that produce electrical currents.

  • Hospitalization. In severe situations, or when someone is having serious thoughts of harming him or herself, hospitalization may be necessary in order to keep the person safe. This is also done to quickly start and monitor treatment.


  • Take your medicine exactly as directed.

  • Attend all of your therapy sessions.

  • Try to eat regular, healthy meals.

  • Exercise daily. Exercise may improve mood symptoms.

  • Get good sleep.

  • Do not drink alcohol or use pot or other drugs. These can worsen mood symptoms and cause anxiety and psychosis.

  • Tell your caregiver if you develop any side effects, such as feeling sick to your stomach (nauseous), dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, drowsiness, tremor, weight gain, or sexual symptoms. He or she may suggest things you can do to improve symptoms.

  • Learn ways to cope with the stress of having a chronic illness. This includes yoga, meditation, tai chi, or participating in a support group.

  • Drink enough water to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. Eat a high-fiber diet. These habits may help you avoid constipation from your medicine.


  • Your mood worsens.

  • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

  • You cannot care for yourself.

  • You develop the sensation of hearing or seeing something that is not actually present (auditory or visual hallucinations).

  • You develop abnormal thoughts.