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Mood Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Mood disorders: types, causes, symptoms, treatment
Written by:

Umar Javed



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The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.Read more

The mood is often defined in terms of predominant emotions of happiness or sadness. Usually, moods are stable and do not fluctuate much. However, when a person is dealing with a mental health condition that affects mood, the relative stability is lost in their emotions, and they become overly happy or sad.

Mood changes are normal; however, if they persist for long durations, they can lead to a mood disorder or affective disorder diagnosis. This article will cover all the essential aspects of mood disorders, so let’s begin.

Want to know if your unpleasant feelings are the symptoms of some mental health condition? Consult with a professional from the comfort of your home.

A Historical Perspective of Mood Disorders

The concept of mood disorders has been around for thousands of years since the era of ancient Greek philosophers and physicians. Back then, they described mood disorders as melancholia [1*] and mania. Melancholia was considered a state of extreme sadness. In contrast, mania was regarded as the opposite of sadness — extreme elation.

During the 19th century, different psychological models were proposed to categorize depression and mania. During the early 1900s, a German psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin, unified all mood disorders into manic-depressive insanity. Despite the criticism, Kreplin’s theory was widely accepted at the time.

The introduction of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM) in the 1950s led to the modern categorization of mental health disorders. In DSM-1, manic-depressive insanity was reorganized into 3 types:

  1. Manic
  2. Depressed
  3. Other

Here, the ‘other’ category was associated with cyclical high and low moods seen in bipolar disorder.

DSM-2 made further tweaks and now manic-depressive insanity was called manic-depressive illness. It also renamed the ‘other’ type to ‘circular’ which was defined as having at least one episode of both depression and mania.

Depression and mania were considered part of the same spectrum of mental health disorders until the 1970s. However, the DSM-3 published in 1980 properly categorized mania as bipolar disorder and separated it from depression based on differences in their epidemiological patterns, disease courses, and treatments offered.

Mood disorders are primarily classified now under depressive and bipolar categories, which are further discussed in the next section.

Types of Mood Disorders

In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), mood disorders are divided into two main categories:

  1. Depressive Disorders
  2. Bipolar Disorders

These are further divided into various subtypes. Let’s have a breakdown of them.

Depressive Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

This type is usually referred to whenever depression is mentioned. It is characterized by extended periods of mild to severe sadness, hopelessness, and irritable mood. The most common symptoms include:

  • Low energy
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Weight changes
  • Menstrual regularities in women
  • Decreased sexual performance
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loss of pleasure in activities
  • Suicidal ideation

MDD can have different forms, such as:

  • Melancholic features
  • Psychotic features
  • Catatonic features
  • Peripartum onset (Peripartum depression)
  • Seasonal onset (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Depression can be caused by a variety of factors and may affect anyone, Get affordable depression treatment if you feel symptoms.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Dysthymia is characterized by the presence of less severe depressive symptoms for longer durations. Symptoms are similar to MDD, and patients often complain about being depressed for most of their day.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

It is a new diagnosis that appeared first in the DSM-5. DMDD primarily affects children and is characterized by angry and irritable moods and severe tantrum outbursts for most of the day.

What causes mood disorders

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

It is a female mood disorder that usually occurs a week before the onset of menstruation and lasts three to seven days in the post-menses week. Rapid mood swings during this period are the hallmark feature of this disorder.

Medication / Substance-Induced Depressive Disorder

This type of depression is diagnosed when a specific medication, drug abuse, or alcohol is causing the depressive symptoms.

Depressive Disorder due to another medical condition

A long-term chronic illness can cause depressive symptoms in patients, which is termed depression secondary to a medical problem.

Only a doctor can make a legit diagnosis. Connect with a psychotherapist to know more about your mental state.

Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar 1

It is the most common type of bipolar disorder. It is characterized by maniac episodes with or without periods of depression. During the manic episode, a person usually experiences elevated mood, thoughts of superiority, anxiety, irritability, reduced sleep, increased energy, and hyperactivity.

Bipolar 2

It is the same as bipolar 1 disorder, except that the intensity of manic symptoms is lower in bipolar 2 and is known as hypomania.


It is a less common type of bipolar disorder that is diagnosed when a person experiences hypomanic symptoms for at least two years. It cannot be classified under full-fledged mania or depression because symptoms are insufficient to fulfill the criteria of these disorders.

DSM-V Classification of Mood Disorders

Depression Types

Common Specifiers

Bipolar Disorder Types

  • Major Depressive Disorder

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

  • Substance/Medication-induced Depressive Disorder

  • Depressive Disorder due to another Medical Condition

  • Recurrent Brief Depression

  • Short-duration Depressive Episode (4-13 days)

  • Depressive Episode with Insufficient Symptoms

  • Unspecified Depressive Disorder

  • Anxious features

  • Melancholic features

  • Atypical features

  • Rapid cycling (only for Bipolar Disorder Types)

  • Catatonia

  • Peripartum onset

  • Seasonal pattern

  • Mood-congruent

  • Mood-incongruent psychotic features

  • Mixed features

  • Bipolar 1 Disorder

  • Bipolar 2 Disorder

  • Cyclothymic Disorder

  • Substance/Medication-Induced

  • Bipolar and Related Disorder

  • Due to Another Medical Condition

  • Short-duration hypomanic episodes (2-3 days)

  • Hypomanic episodes with insufficient symptoms

  • A hypomanic episode without a prior major depressive episode

  • Short-duration cyclothymia (less than 24 months)

  • Unspecified Bipolar Disorders

Causes and Risk Factors of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are not specified to a single cause. Multiple factors can combine and result in their development. Common causes are:

Biological Changes

Certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, play a key role in regulating mood. However, a decrease or increase in their normal levels can cause mood disorders. Serotonin deficiency [2*] in the brain is linked with depression, whereas an increase in dopamine levels [3*] may lead to bipolar disorder.

Depression symptoms do not fade away by themselves. Get a personalized treatment plan at MEDvidi.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormones play a key role in maintaining the body’s normal functioning. However, their imbalance can cause many physical and psychological problems. For example, a decrease in thyroid and parathyroid hormones is linked with the development of depression. Other hormones associated with mood disorders include:

  • Estrogen and progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • Cortisol
Medications for mood disorders

Disruption in the Immune System

Recent research [4*] has found a critical link between nitric oxide and mood disorders. Nitric oxide regulates various neurotransmitters in the brain, and its altered levels can lead to depression. Besides, some cytokines (proteins crucial for metabolism) like IL-1beta, IL-6, and TNF-alpha have also been associated with mood disorders.

Family History

A positive family history [5*] of mood disorders is a strong risk factor. So, children whose parents are dealing with a mood disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition themselves. So, So, it confirms the genetic predisposition and hereditary nature of these mental health problems.

Social Factors

Undue stress is an important risk factor for mood disorders. Many life changes can potentiate stress, like the death of a loved one, financial difficulties, traumatic childhood, etc.

Therapy and medication management are the most common options for the treatment of mood disorders. Consult with a doctor to know more.

Personality Traits

Certain personality features are more closely linked to mood disorders. For example, individuals dealing with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and borderline personality disorder are more likely to suffer from emotional highs and lows.

Medical Ailments

People with certain medical conditions are prone to mood disorders. Commonly linked ones include:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • AIDS
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Q fever
  • Influenza
  • Brain disorders like tumors, encephalitis, CNS syphilis, etc.


Some medications and illicit drugs also increase the likelihood of a mood disorder. These include:

  • Steroids
  • Procarbazine
  • Indomethacin
  • Levodopa
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Physostigmine
  • Sulphonamide
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines

Key Stats about Mood Disorders

  • Women are twice as likely to suffer from a mood disorder during their lifetime than men.
  • Major depressive disorder is the most common type of mood disorder in both men and women.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • People with hypertension and asthma are more likely to suffer from a mood disorder.
  • Low-income groups are more susceptible to mood disorders than high-income groups.
  • The median age of onset of mood disorders is usually 30 years.
  • Married people are less likely to deal with mood disorders than divorced, separated, and widowed.

Check the source for more information.

Modern technologies make it possible to get and refill prescriptions online. Consult with a doctor and receive suitable medication at MEDvidi.

Other Conditions Commonly Diagnosed with Mood Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Delirium
Therapy for mood disorders

Treatment of Mood Disorders

Medications and mental health therapies are the mainstay of treatment for mood disorders. These treatment modes can be further supplemented by adjusting faulty lifestyle habits. Let’s discuss each one of them in detail.


Depression and bipolar disorder are treated with different sets of medications. Antidepressants are primarily used to treat depression, while mood stabilizers are prescribed to control bipolar symptoms.

Therapy is the first-line treatment for different kinds of mood disorders. See a therapist for an initial evaluation if you have disturbing symptoms.

Antidepressants for Depressive Disorders

Antidepressant drugs are the main staple of depression treatment. Here is a list of commonly used antidepressants.

Antidepressant Drug Classes


  • Sertraline

  • Escitalopram

  • Citalopram

  • Paroxetine

  • Fluoxetine

  • Vilazodone


  • Duloxetine

  • Venlafaxine

  • Desvenlafaxine

  • Levomilnacipran

Atypical Antidepressants

  • Bupropion

  • Mirtazapine

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA)

  • Desipramine

  • Nortriptyline

  • Imipramine

  • Amitriptyline

Serotonin Modulators

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

  • Phenelzine

  • Selegiline

  • Tranylcypromine

Out of these drugs, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants due to their better safety profile and tolerability in patients. It usually takes them 4 to 6 weeks to reach optimal levels in the brain and correct the imbalance in the neurotransmitter levels.

As far as older antidepressants (TCAs and MAOIs) are concerned, they are much less prescribed these days due to their potential for causing severe side effects. They are more likely to be used in patients that do not respond to or cannot tolerate new antidepressants.

Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar Disorders

Mood stabilizers are the primary form of pharmacotherapy for bipolar disorders. These include:

  • Lithium carbonate
  • Carbamazepine
  • Valproic acid
  • Lamotrigine
  • Divalproex sodium

These mood stabilizers may be supplemented with antipsychotic medications to treat manic symptoms associated with bipolar disorders, such as:

  • Haloperidol
  • Olanzapine
  • Aripiprazole
  • Risperidone
  • Quetiapine
  • Ziprasidone

If the manic symptoms co-occur with anxiety or panic disorder, then benzodiazepines are also added to the pharmacological treatment. The role of antidepressants in the treatment of bipolar disorders has not been established so far.

Mental Health Therapy

Different psychotherapies are used to treat mood disorders. Common ones include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is the most widely used therapy for mood disorders. It helps patients identify and overcome their challenging thoughts by engaging in rewarding activities with the help of a therapist. It also aids patients in improving their communication skills and providing stability in daily routines.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. This therapy focuses on tackling personal vulnerabilities that may have surfaced due to troubled childhood. It develops awareness of relationship patterns and helps patients improve their social skills.
  • Family Therapy. This therapy analyzes the impact of the person with a mood disorder in the context of the family’s overall well-being. It also assesses the role of the family in the patient’s life. It is usually considered when a mood disorder is at risk of harming the patient’s marriage or family functioning or the family circumstances contribute to the development of a mood disorder.
  • Psychoanalytically Oriented Therapy. This therapy aims to change the person’s overall character and tackle mood disorder symptoms. It is focused on dealing with patients’ trust and intimacy issues while providing them the essential tools to cope with a wide range of emotions.

Get a personalized treatment plan based on the integrative approach at MEDvidi.

Unconventional Treatments

There are some atypical treatment methods reserved for severe forms of mood disorders. These include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). It involves passing electrical currents via electrodes through the brain to cure mood disorders.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation. It involves placing an electrode device in the skin to stimulate the vagus nerve for symptom control.
  • Transcranial magnetic nerve stimulation. It involves sending short bursts of magnetic energy to the targeted brain regions to manage mood disorders.
  • Phototherapy. It is used in patients with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) by exposing the patient to bright light.
How to treat mood disorders: additional tips

Lifestyle Changes

Making small adjustments in daily life activities helps a lot to speed up the recovery process. These changes include:

  • Regular Exercise. Regular exercise boosts physical and mental health justifying the proverb, ”A healthy mind in a healthy body”. It does not have to be strenuous exercise; a daily 20-30 minute walk can also do the trick if done consistently.
  • Balanced Diet. A healthy weekly diet consists of appropriate portions of carbs, proteins, and fats. Cutting junk food intake and switching to organic foods, consisting of vegetables and white meat, can do wonders for improving mental health.
  • Yoga and other relaxation techniques. Yoga, mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation are excellent resources for lowering stress levels and boosting happy chemicals in the brain.
  • Avoiding Smoking and Alcohol. Smoking and alcohol consumption can make a person feel depressed and anxious while putting them at risk of several other medical problems. Hence, try to give up smoking or, at the bare minimum, reduce the number of cigarettes each day. Also, cut down alcohol consumption to less than 14 units per week.

Do you have questions about your symptoms? Ask a licensed professional online.

Mood Disorders FAQs

How Are Mood Disorders Diagnosed?

There is no standardized testing for mood disorders. Doctors carefully assess the symptoms and rule out other possible medical conditions before diagnosing a mood disorder. At MEDvidi, our mental health experts conduct a two-stage evaluation for depression and other mood disorders. Patients are first assessed by a SmartCare symptoms checker followed by virtual consultation with a mental healthcare professional.

Are Mood Disorders Similar to Personality Disorders?

Mood disorders and personality disorders are both recognized mental health conditions. However, they are different from each other in their course and predominant symptoms. Mood disorders primarily affect emotions, whereas personality disorders disrupt behavior and thinking patterns.

How Common Are Mood Disorders?

According to statistics, an estimated 9.7% of US adults are likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder in any given year. The ratio is higher for females than males.

Is Anxiety Considered a Mood Disorder?

Anxiety can affect a person’s mood; however, it is not considered a mood disorder because it does not directly alter emotions. However, persistent uncontrolled anxiety can be a cause of a mood disorder.

Are Mood Disorders Lifelong?

Mental health conditions like mood disorders are difficult to manage and treat. However, timely diagnosis and treatment can lead to remission of symptoms. It is important to follow medical advice throughout the recovery process because the rate of relapse of these disorders is high.

Is Mood Disorder Considered a Disability?

If a severe mood disorder interferes with the patient’s daily activities to an extent where they cannot function, then it can be considered a disability. It may also entitle patients to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Can Untreated ADHD Cause Mood Disorders?

Yes, untreated ADHD can increase stress and anxiety levels that may ultimately lead to the development of a mood disorder.


Mood disorders affect emotions and are further divided into depressive and bipolar disorders. Sadness, hopelessness, and inability to enjoy daily activities characterize depression, whereas maniac symptoms in between depressive episodes are pathognomonic for bipolar disorders. There are several treatment options available to manage them, including medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Other forms of advanced therapeutic methods can also be used in severe cases of mood disorders.

At MEDvidi, we have licensed and certified doctors and therapists who provide an accurate online assessment of mood disorders. After diagnosis, they create a customized treatment plan for each patient and continue to monitor the progress throughout the recovery phase. Feel free to book an appointment and experience high-level care from the comfort of your home.


5 sources
  1. Historical Underpinnings of Bipolar Disorder Diagnostic Criteria. (2016)
    Source link
  2. What has serotonin to do with depression? (2015)
    Source link
  3. The dopamine hypothesis of bipolar affective disorder: the state of the art and implications for treatment. (2017)
    Source link
  4. Neuronal nitric oxide synthase and affective disorders. (2018)
    Source link
  5. Family history of mood disorder and characteristics of major depressive disorder: A STAR*D (sequenced treatment alternatives to relieve depression) study. (2007)
    Source link
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Written by:

Umar Javed



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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.