What are the telltale signs of a mood disorder?

Sometimes referred to as affective disorder, mood disorders are a series of psychiatric conditions that can cause severe disruption to a person’s daily functioning and overall quality of life.

What are mood disorders?

There are two types of mood disorders; depression and bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression vary depending on the individual and range from mild to severe.

Mental health treatment

Fortunately, there are effective treatments available for a mood disorder, which may involve a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Advice, diagnosis or treatment

Although mood disorders can cause severe disruption and other complications, treatments such as psychotherapy can be helpful and may reduce depressive episodes and alleviate symptoms.

A licensed mental health professional like a psychotherapist or psychiatrist can diagnose mood disorders, following a thorough psychiatric assessment.

Mood disorder types

As mentioned, there are two types of mood disorders:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

Each of the conditions has a different set of symptoms. Moreover, bipolar disorder and depression can vary in severity.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves profound mood swings.

People with bipolar disorder may experience alterations in mood, which involve periods of mania or hypomania and episodes of depression.

Bipolar disorder types:

There are different subsets of bipolar disorder. They include:

  • Bipolar I. This form of bipolar disorder involves mania that lasts for at least seven days. Depression may not always occur with this form of bipolar. However, an individual may experience depressive episodes lasting for two weeks or more.
  • Bipolar II. This form of bipolar disorder involves depressive episodes that can last up to two weeks, with milder mania (hypomania) being one of the main signs and symptoms.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder. It involves a milder form of bipolar disorder but still includes episodes of depression and hypomania. There is no definitive timeline for Cyclothymia, and a person may get diagnosed with the condition if they’ve experienced depression and cycling hypomania for two years or longer.

Symptoms of depression

Depression symptoms - Camino Recovery

There are several variations of depression, a medical phrase that describes persistent feelings of profound hopelessness and sadness.

Depressive disorder

A depressed mood involves a lot more than just feeling low for a day or two. 

For example, with depression, a person may experience depressive episodes that last for several days or weeks.

Studies show that depression is a prevalent mental health condition that affects more than 264 million people worldwide.

There are a few different variants of depression that include:

  • Persistent depressive disorder – Sometimes referred to as dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder involves less severe symptoms of depression that can occur for up to two years.
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD) – includes prolonged, persistent episodes of hopelessness, fatigue and low mood. Major depressive disorder previously was referred to as ‘clinical’ depression.
  • Major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns – Sometimes called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this type of depression usually occurs during wintertime, mainly due to limited exposure to daylight.

Hormonal changes

A depressive episode or symptoms of depression can also get brought on by hormonal changes that mainly affect women.

For example, health conditions such as perinatal depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression after childbirth may also trigger a mood disorder.

Co-occurring conditions that can co-exist in females alongside depression are premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Concurrent conditions

Occasionally, depression can co-occur with physical conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Lupus
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Mood disorder signs and symptoms

Overall, the symptoms associated with mood disorders significantly vary depending on various factors such as age, gender, pre-existing conditions, family history and genetics.

However, there are common signs of mood disorder for each of the main types.

Bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder often experience depressive episodes that can be similar to the symptoms of major depressive disorder.

During the manic phase, an individual may exhibit the following behaviours and emotions:

  • Anger and aggression
  • Require less sleep than usual
  • Impulsivity
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Recklessness
  • Increased or exaggerated self-confidence


Lack of energy - Camino Recovery

With depression, a person may experience a range of symptoms that include:

  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Chronic and unusual mood changes
  • A lack of energy and severe lethargy
  • Chronic sadness and suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating and easily distracted
  • Profound changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Physical aches and pains that have no cause

Additionally, people may turn to substance abuse such as drugs or alcohol to cope with depressive symptoms

Risk factors

The cause of mood disorders is not entirely known.

However, researchers believe that brain chemicals may play a role in developing a mood disorder.

Broadly, when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, it can alter how certain chemicals provide signals to the brain, where an affective disorder can be the result.

However, what causes such an imbalance to occur is not known.

Life events

Mood disorders often occur due to trauma or other adverse life experiences.

Traumatic events such as domestic abuse, child neglect or the death of a loved one can trigger depression or other mood disorders.

Substance abuse can also put someone at risk of developing an affective disorder.


Studies show that genetics may also play a role in mood disorders.

For example, if someone has a family member with depression or bipolar disorder, they are also at risk of developing one of these conditions.

However, although genetics do play a role in mood disorders, there is no guarantee that a person will develop a mood disorder just because a family member suffers from the condition.


Effective treatments for mood disorders mainly involve medication and therapy.

Combination therapy

In many cases, combining the above treatment approaches is the most beneficial for those with mood disorders.

Psychotherapy and antidepressant medication are integral components of treatment.

The above treatment methods can help people with mood disorders to cope more effectively and potentially change any destructive behaviours that may be contributing to the condition.

Lifestyle changes

Healthy lifestyle - Camino Recovery

As well as therapy and medication, mental health experts say that supplemental approaches may profoundly benefit those suffering from mood disorders.

For example, vitamin D supplements and light therapy can significantly improve mood and may even help to alleviate depressive symptoms.

Additional changes

Other lifestyle changes that a mental health professional may suggest are:

  • Regular exercise
  • Consistent sleep patterns
  • Healthy diet
  • Mindfulness practice

Help and support

At Camino Recovery, we specialise in treating various mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.

If you think you may be experiencing mood disorder symptoms, you must get in touch with a specialist who can help.

Recovery and emotional wellness are possible with proper treatment and a consistent aftercare plan.

Contact our centre today and speak to a friendly team member to discuss your treatment options.


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