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Specific Disorders - Mood-Related

Mood Disorders

Mental health conditions related to depression and emotions fall under the classification of mood disorders.  The most common include:

  • Major depression described as having less interest in usual activities, feeling sad or hopeless, and other symptoms for at least two weeks.
  • Dysthymia is a condition characterized by a chronic, low-grade, depressed, or irritable mood for at least two years.
  • Bipolar disorder is a condition in which a person has periods of depression alternating with periods of mania or elevated mood.
  • Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic diseases) can trigger mood disorders symptoms of depression.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder. Symptoms of depression are due to the effects of medicine, drug abuse, alcoholism, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment.

Research shows that mood disorders likely stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain, and they tend to run in families; however, life events may contribute to their development also. While anyone may feel sad when bad things happen, those individuals who suffer from mood disorders suffer intensely and have a harder time managing their feelings. If they have an underlying chemical imbalance, a life event may be the trigger for the development of one of the mood disorders mentioned above. Once one family member receives a diagnosis of a mood disorder, the risk significantly increases for all other members of that family to have a similar determination made in the future.

Ongoing sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling inadequate or worthless
  • Excessive guilt
  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide
  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Relationship problems
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Decreased energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A decrease in the ability to make decisions
  • Frequent physical complaints (for example, headache, stomachache, or tiredness) that don’t get better with treatment
  • Running away or threats of running away from home
  • Very sensitive to failure or rejection
  • Irritability, hostility, or aggression

It’s essential to seek help right away when feelings of hopelessness begin to take over your life. Suicide is on the rise in this nation.  Seek advice while emotions are still in the sadness zone.

 Antidepressant and mood-stabilizing medicines—especially when combined with psychotherapy.

  • Psychotherapy—most often cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapy.
  • Family therapy
  • Other therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial stimulation.


Major or Clinical Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be provided a medical diagnosis of clinical depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Several types of clinical depression exist.

Types of Clinical Depression

A depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for two years.

Depression occurs during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression). The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany postpartum depression make it difficult for the new mother to complete daily care activities for herself or her baby.

  • Occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing things not there (hallucinations). The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.

Depression characterizes the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight. This depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.

Bipolar Disorder is different from depression, but it belongs in this list because someone who has bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression (called “bipolar depression”). However, a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high – euphoric or irritable – moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.”

Grief and dispair over loss

Depression Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms of Depression:

Experiencing one or more of the following for more than two weeks may be an indication of depression. Contact a healthcare professional trained in mental health care to discuss how you are feeling in more detail.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause or that do not ease even with treatment

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms, while others may experience many. A diagnosis of major depression requires several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood, but people with only a few – but distressing – symptoms may benefit from treatment.
Treatment and Therapy

Treatment for depression includes medications, psychotherapy (counseling), cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy. If these treatments do not reduce symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies may be options to explore.


Antidepressants take time – usually 2 to 4 weeks – to work, and often, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts, so it is crucial to give medication a chance before concluding its effectiveness.


Please Note: In some cases, children, teenagers, and young adults under 25 may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed. This warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says that patients of all ages taking antidepressants should be watched closely, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.


If medications do not reduce the symptoms of depression, brain stimulation therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) are an option.

  • Try to be active and exercise.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
  • Try not to isolate yourself and let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced, or changing jobs until you feel better. Discuss choices with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be an effective treatment for depression. In some severe cases where a rapid response is necessary, or medication use is not safe, ECT can even be a first-line intervention. Once strictly an inpatient procedure, today, ECT is often performed on an outpatient basis. The treatment consists of a series of sessions, typically three times a week, for two to four weeks.


ECT may cause some side effects, including confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. Usually, these side effects are short-term, but sometimes memory problems can linger, especially for the months around the time of the treatment course. Advances in ECT devices and methods have made modern ECT safe and effective for most people.


ECT is not painful, and you cannot feel the electrical impulses. Before ECT begins, the person is put under brief anesthesia and given a muscle relaxant. Within one hour after the treatment session, which takes only a few minutes, the person is awake and alert.