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 your mood and its related functions. Mood disorder is a broad term that's used to include all the different types of depression and bipolar disorder, both of which affect your 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 most recent update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013, mood disorders are now separated into bipolar disorder 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 long periods of extreme sadness, hopelessness, and/or fatigue that last for two weeks or more.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This type of depression typically strikes during the short days of the year when the sun isn't out as long.
  • Bipolar I disorder: Also referred to in the past as "manic depression," if you have mania, you experience euphoric and/or irritable moods and increased energy or activity. During manic episodes, you also regularly engage yourself in activities that can very result in painful consequences for you and/or someone else.
  • Bipolar II disorder: For diagnosis, you must have had at least one episode of current or past hypomania, which is 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 maniahypomania, and major depression remain the same.
  • Cyclothymic disorders: Diagnosis requires a two-year history minimum of many episodes of not-quite hypomania and not-quite major depression. It's a less extreme form of bipolar disorder.
  • Other: This additional category includes depression or bipolar disorder that's caused by medications, drugs, substances, or a medical condition or illness. For instance, chronic illness or cancer can lead to depression, as can an alcohol use disorder or exposure to certain drugs or toxins.

New Mood Disorders

There are three new depressive disorders included in the DSM-V, including:

  • 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 frequent episodes of extreme behavioral dyscontrol, which is a pattern of abnormal, episodic, and frequently violent and uncontrollable social behavior 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 low-grade form of depression.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: This diagnosis is based on the presence of specific symptoms in the week before the onset of menstruation, followed by the resolution of these symptoms after onset. The symptoms must include one or more of the following: mood swings, irritability or anger, depressed mood or hopelessness, and anxiety or tension, as well as one or more of an additional seven symptoms, with a total of at least five symptoms.


    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 your lifestyle.

    In general, symptoms may include:

    • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
    • Eating more or less than usual
    • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
    • Fatigue
    • Crying
    • Anxiety
    • Feeling "flat," like you just don't have the 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 your 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 your brain are the most likely cause. Stressful life events like death, divorce, or trauma can also trigger depression, especially if you've 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 you have experienced any of the symptoms above for more than two weeks and they're interfering with your life, especially if you're having suicidal thoughts, you should seek help immediately. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you by performing a physical exam to rule out any physical reasons for your symptoms, as well as 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 the chemical imbalances in your brain. A combination of psychotherapy and medication is often the best course of action to get you on the road to feeling better.

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    Article Sources

    • American Psychiatric Association (APA). Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. Published 2013.

    • Johns Hopkins Medicine. Overview of Mood Disorders.,P00759

    • Mayo Clinic Staff. Mood Disorders. Mayo Clinic. Updated October 25, 2017.

    • Parker GF. DSM-5 and Psychotic and Mood DisordersJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online. Jun 2014;42(2);182–190.