The Various Types of Mood Disorders

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A mood disorder, also referred to as an affective disorder, is a condition that severely impacts mood and its related functions. Mood disorder is a broad term that's used to include all the different types of depressive and bipolar disorders, both of which affect mood. If you have symptoms of a mood disorder, your moods may range from extremely low (depressed) to extremely high or irritable (manic).

Types of Mood Disorders

With the update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013, mood disorders are now separated into two groups: bipolar disorder and related disorders and depressive disorders. In general, the main types of mood disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder: This is what we often hear referred to as major depression or clinical depression. It involves periods of extreme sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness accompanied by a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms.
  • Bipolar I disorder: This disorder was formerly called "manic depression," Mania is characterized by euphoric and/or irritable moods and increased energy or activity. During manic episodes, people with bipolar I also regularly engage in activities that can result in painful consequences for themselves and/or others.
  • Bipolar II disorder: To be diagnosed with bipolar II, a person must have had at least one episode of current or past hypomania (a less severe form of mania), and at least one episode of current or past major depression, but no history of any manic episodes. The criteria for episodes of mania, hypomania, and major depression remain the same.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Diagnosis requires a minimum two-year history of many episodes of not-quite hypomania and not-quite major depression.
  • Other: There are other categories of mood disorders that include substance/medication and medically induced mood disorders. There are also "other specified" and "unspecified" mood disorders that don't exactly meet criteria for the other mood disorders.

New Mood Disorders

There are three new depressive disorders included in the DSM-V.

  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder: This depressive disorder was added to the DSM-V for children up to 18 years of age who exhibit persistent irritability and anger and frequent episodes of extreme temper outbursts without any significant provocation.
  • Persistent depressive disorder: This diagnosis is meant to include both chronic major depressive disorder that has lasted for two or more years and what was previously known as dysthymic disorder or dysthymia, a lower grade form of depression.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: This diagnosis is based on the presence of one or more specific symptoms in the week before the onset of menstruation, followed by the resolution of these symptoms after onset. The symptoms include mood swings, irritability or anger, depressed mood or hopelessness, and anxiety or tension, as well as one or more of an additional seven symptoms, for a total of at least five symptoms.

Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Mood disorders can lead to difficulty in keeping up with the daily tasks and demands of life. Some people, especially children, may have physical symptoms of depression, like unexplained headaches or stomachaches. Because there are various types of mood disorders, they can have very different effects on quality of life. In general, symptoms may include:

  • Loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Fatigue
  • Crying
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling "flat," having no energy to care
  • Feeling isolated, sad, hopeless, and worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Irritability
  • Thoughts of dying and/or suicide

With mood disorders, these symptoms are ongoing and eventually start to affect daily life in a negative way. They're not the sporadic thoughts and feelings that everyone has on occasion.


No one knows the exact causes of mood disorders, but a variety of factors seem to contribute to them and they tend to run in families. Chemical imbalances in the brain are the most likely cause. Stressful life events like death, divorce, or trauma can also trigger depression, especially if someone has already had it before or there's a genetic component.


Mood disorders should be properly evaluated and treated by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. If any of the symptoms above have been interfering with your life, particularly if you are having suicidal thoughts, you should seek help immediately.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Your doctor will be able to diagnose you by performing a physical exam and lab tests to rule out any physical reasons for your symptoms along with a psychiatric evaluation.


Millions of people experience mood disorders and are successfully treated, helping them live a better quality of life. Treatments for mood disorders can include psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, as well as medications to help regulate chemical imbalances in the brain. A combination of psychotherapy and medication is often the best course of action.

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