A mood disorder is a mental health condition that primarily affects your emotional state. They can cause persistent and intense sadness, elation and/or anger. Mood disorders are treatable — usually with a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy).
A mood disorder is a mental health condition that primarily affects your emotional state. It’s a disorder in which you experience long periods of extreme happiness, extreme sadness or both. Certain mood disorders involve other persistent emotions, such as anger and irritability.
It’s normal for your mood to change, depending on the situation. However, for a mood disorder diagnosis, symptoms must be present for several weeks or longer. Mood disorders can cause changes in your behavior and can affect your ability to perform routine activities, such as work or school.
Two of the most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder.
Mood disorders include:
Depression (major or clinical depression) is a common mental health condition. Depressive symptoms include feeling sad or hopeless. The condition can also cause difficulty with thinking, memory, eating and sleeping. For a person to receive a diagnosis of clinical depression, symptoms must last for at least two weeks.
There are several different types of depression, including:
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mood disorder and mental health condition that causes intense shifts in mood, energy levels, thinking patterns and behavior. There are a few types of bipolar disorder, which involve experiencing significant fluctuations in mood referred to as hypomanic/manic and depressive episodes.
There are four basic types of bipolar disorder, including:
Other mood disorders include:
Anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder) isn’t a mood disorder. It’s classified as one of many anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and phobias. However, anxiety often precedes or coexists with mood disorders.
Mood disorders can affect anyone, including children, adolescents and adults.
Major depression is twice as likely to affect women and people AFAB than men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB).
Mood disorders are relatively common in adults, with depression and bipolar disorder being the most common. Approximately 7% of adults in the United States have depression, while about 2.8% have bipolar disorder.
Mood disorders are commonly seen in children and adolescents — approximately 15% have any mood disorder.
Each mood disorder has different symptoms and/or different patterns of symptoms.
Mood disorders typically have symptoms that affect your mood, sleep, eating behaviors, energy level and thinking abilities (such as racing thoughts or loss of concentration).
In general, depressive symptoms include:
In general, symptoms of hypomanic or manic episodes include:
Researchers believe several factors contribute to the development of mood disorders, including:
If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of a mood disorder, a healthcare provider may perform a physical examination to rule out physiological causes for symptoms, such as thyroid disease, other illnesses or a vitamin deficiency.
Your provider will ask about your medical history, any medications you’re taking and whether you or any family members have been diagnosed with a mood disorder. They may refer you to a mental health professional.
A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, will conduct an interview or survey, asking questions about your symptoms, sleeping and eating habits and other behaviors. They use criteria in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to make diagnoses of mood disorders.
In general, a mood disorder is diagnosed when sadness, elation, anger or other emotion is:
Treatment for mood disorders depends on the specific condition and symptoms. Usually, treatment involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy (also called talk therapy). There are also other types of treatment, such as brain stimulation therapy.
Medications that healthcare providers may prescribe to help treat mood disorders include:
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
Psychotherapy takes place with a trained, licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. It can provide support, education and guidance to you and/or your family to help you function better and increase your well-being.
Some of the more common types of psychotherapy include:
Other treatments for mood disorders include:
At this time, there’s no known way to prevent mood disorders, but many of the related issues may be lessened with treatment. Seeking help as soon as symptoms appear can help decrease the disruption to your life.
The prognosis (outlook) for mood disorders depends on several factors, including:
Depression and bipolar disorder may recur (come back after initial treatment) or be ongoing and, therefore, may require long-term or lifetime treatment.
About one-third of people with a mood disorder develop psychotic disorders, and another one-third develop a lifetime anxiety disorder.
Children and adults with a mood disorder have an increased risk of suicidal behavior. Seek help immediately if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others. If you live in the United States, you can call 988 for help. It’s the number for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Someone will be available to talk to you at any time of the day.
People with mood disorders also have an increased risk of the following:
It’s important to remember that mood disorders are treatable. Even though it may take a while to find the right treatment plan for you, stay committed to feeling better.
If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of a mood disorder, talk to a healthcare provider.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a mood disorder, you’ll likely need to see your provider and/or mental health professional regularly to make sure your treatment plan is working.
Discuss any concerns you have about changing or stopping medications with your provider or another health professional. Ask them whether you might need to try a different medication or have the dosage adjusted if the one you’re taking isn’t working or causes unpleasant side effects.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It’s important to remember that mood disorders are mental health conditions. As with all mental health conditions, seeking help as soon as symptoms appear can help decrease the disruptions to your life. Mental health professionals can offer treatment plans that can help you manage your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/04/2022.
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