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What Is a Mood Disorder?

mood disorders, mood disorder, mental health, therapy, recovery

Mental health conditions that result from a person’s mood not aligning with the situations in which they find themselves fall into the broader category of mood disorders. These conditions are serious and can increase a person’s risk of attempting suicide.

Several specific diagnoses fall under the umbrella of mood disorders:

  • Major depression – when a person experiences intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness for a period of two weeks or more, and takes less interest in things they used to enjoy, they may be experiencing depression.
  • Dysthymia – this is a low-grade but long-lasting depressed or irritable mood. These symptoms generally persist for two years or longer.
  • Bipolar disorder – when mania or high mood alternates with periods of intense sadness, a person may be experiencing this condition, which was previously known as manic depression.
  • Mood disorder caused by other health conditions – facing a physical health struggle like cancer, injury, infection, or chronic illness can sometimes trigger symptoms of depression.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder – use of illicit substances, certain medical treatments, and exposure to toxins can impact a person’s mood to the point of meeting criteria for a mental health condition.

While everyone experiences sadness and irritability from time to time, the difficult feelings from mood disorders tend to be more intense, longer lasting, and more difficult to manage. Mood disorders are also sometimes accompanied by low self-esteem and excessive feelings of guilt.

Outward Signs of Mood Disorders

Many of the symptoms of mood disorders are internal, so they may be difficult for loved ones to detect unless they know what to look for. Some of the outwardly observable indicators that someone could be experiencing a mood disorder include:

  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Verbalizations of suicidal or self-loathing thoughts
  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Frequent physical complaints
  • Inability to focus

What Causes Mood Disorders?

Several factors contribute to mood disorders. These include:

  • An imbalance in brain chemicals.
  • Change and stress – big life events like a divorce, death of a loved one, losing a job, or financial problems are especially likely to trigger mood disorders.
  • Family medical history – having a parent with a mood disorder increases the chances of a person developing one themselves.
  • Gender – women are about twice as likely as men to experience mood disorders.
  • Isolation – people who are alone by circumstance or choice are more susceptible to developing mood disorders.
  • Time of year – in the case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression, symptoms are most severe during a particular season, generally winter.

How are Mood Disorders Treated?

Mood disorders do not typically go away on their own, and the sooner a person gets treatment, the better their odds of recovery. The most common treatments for mood disorders are therapy and medication (most often antidepressants and mood stabilizers). Which therapy type and which specific medication(s) are recommended could vary, based on which mood disorder a person is experiencing and other factors unique to that individual.

When to Seek Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms consistent with a mood disorder seek help if:

  • Their symptoms interfere with their job, relationships, or other parts of their life
  • Their substance use increases
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors occur

A person with these symptoms can get help by:

How to Support a Loved One with a Mood Disorder

Watching a loved one struggle with difficult feelings can be very scary and stressful. If you have a friend or family member who is showing signs of a possible mood disorder, there are some ways you can offer them help:

  • Reassure your loved one that their illness is not their fault and they are not a bad or weak person for having these symptoms.
  • Ask direct questions, such as if they are getting help from a doctor, therapist, medication manager, etc. and who those providers are. Ask them what help they are willing to accept from you (regular check-ins, grocery shopping, housework or keeping them safe from items they have considered using to harm themselves).
  • Offer words of support, such as:
    • “You are not alone. I will be here for you.”
    • “These feelings are caused by a real illness, and it’s a lot to manage.”
    • “Things will get better.”
    • “I don’t know exactly what this is like for you, but I care about you and I want to help.”
    • “You are important to me and your life matters.”
    • “We will get through this together.”

If you have questions about mood disorders or would like to know more about how you can support a person who seems to be struggling with a mood disorder, the Highland Hospital team in West Virginia is here to help.

Looking for residential mental health treatment in Charleston, West Virginia? For more information about Highland Hospital and the services we offer, please call and speak with someone today at (304) 322-3037.

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