What Are Mood Disorders?

It’s perfectly normal that any given day will sweep you through various emotions and moods. Sometimes we are elated about something; other times we feel down and irritable. Our changing moods are usually in response to our surroundings and are oftentimes situational.

We are wrought with grief at the death of a loved one, and we experience sleepless nights as we send our children off to camp or college. A traffic jam can leave us feeling angry, and who doesn’t have a frustrating day at work?

For someone who is suffering from a mood disorder, however, life is a daily struggle in handling good times as well as bad. Life seems awry even when the situation changes for the better.

So what exactly are mood disorders? What are their symptoms, and how are they treated?

How a Mood Disorder Is Different from Normal Moods

It’s important to note that mood swings – the kind we get from a lack of sleep, when we’re hungry, or during a particularly annoying situation – are not usually considered mood disorders; they go away as soon as the situation gets better. Emotional rollercoasters are not atypical either, considering the stressors of our complex, overcharged modern lifestyles.

Mood disorders, in contrast, encompass a number of mental health conditions and affect approximately 1 in 10 adults. Fortunately, there is treatment for mood disorders – including medication and psychotherapy – that can minimize symptoms.

The two most common types of mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder.


This is a common yet serious mood disorder that severely affects the way you feel, think, and deal with daily life. Depression can adversely affect your sleep habits, your familial and professional life and relationships, and how you see the world (and how the world sees you).

Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. Some people have just one episode of depression, while others struggle with depression throughout their lives.

Symptoms of depression include persistent sadness, chronic anxiety, loss of interest in things that once interested you, malaise, and bouts of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness. These bouts often last two or more weeks and manifest in several forms, including:

  • Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia; this can last for at least two years
  • Postpartum depression, which can affect women after childbirth
  • Psychotic depression, an extremely severe and dangerous form of depression that is accompanied by delusions and/or hallucinations
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is season- or climate-specific and is triggered by lack of sunlight, most often during the gray winter months

While sadness can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, a job, or a status, most of us figure out how to deal with it and persevere. When that sadness takes over for weeks at a time, depression is very likely the diagnosis. Depression affects people across all cultures, ethnicities, and income levels. Warning signs include:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Disinterest in life
  • Irritability, worry, or agitation
  • Negativity towards life
  • Indifference toward activities, opportunities, even loved ones
  • Feelings of shame, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Withdrawal from friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Talk therapy as well as medication prescribed by an experienced psychiatrist is effective in treating depression. Studies have shown that exercise and diet help mild to moderate depression, too.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can cause disruptive mood swings, from lows to highs and back again. Those with bipolar disorder experience “lows” (depression) that can last days, weeks, or months, interrupted by periods of “highs” (mania).

In a manic state, patients have excessive energy and don’t sleep much. For those with bipolar disorder type 2, depression alternates with a very irritable state of mind called hypomania.

During a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder may:

  • Be hyperactive and talkative
  • Not sleep much
  • Be unrealistically optimistic and self-confidant
  • Be reckless in personal and/or financial matters
  • Be angry or have outbursts of irritability (hypomania)

During low periods, a person with bipolar disorder typically has similar symptoms as a person who suffers from depression. These symptoms can include sadness, malaise, worry, agitation, severe pessimism, and anxiety.

Bipolar disorder affects more women than men, and it usually begins in adolescence to early adulthood. It is a long-term condition that usually can be managed with treatment.

Treatment of Mood Disorders

In recent years, researchers and doctors have made great advances in medications that treat mood disorders. It’s important to understand that it often may take a combination of different medications to get the balance just right.

Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is common among people with a mood disorder, especially those who are not receiving medical care. For this and other reasons, left untreated, this type of mental disorder can disrupt personal and professional relationships.

Caring Psychiatrist in Connecticut

Working with a psychiatrist is important in taking control of your mood disorder. Everyone with these issues experiences them differently, and treatment should be handled on an individualized basis in order to achieve success.

Everyone deserves to feel their best. An experienced mental health professional can help evaluate you or a loved one, make a diagnosis, recommend treatment, or perform further testing.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Mark Stracks, please call us today at (203) 405-1745 or request an appointment online now. We can help you take back the reins and enjoy life again.

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