What are mood disorders?

A mood disorder is a type of mental health condition which impacts a person’s emotional state. They often cause severe and prolonged changes in mood and can affect your ability to engage in everyday life activities. Read on to learn more about the different categories of mood disorders, as well as the causes, symptoms, and treatments available.

What are the different types of mood disorders?


Depression

People with depression experience persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or withdrawal from life. Impacting approximately 4.5% of Australians in the last 12 months, depression is one of the most common mood disorders. Research also shows over their lifetime, more women (12.8%) have experienced depression compared to men (9.4%).

There are a range of depressive disorders including: major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), dysthymia and substance-induced depressive disorders.

 

Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder experience strong changes in their mood and energy levels. These mood changes can include a swing between depressive (low mood) episodes and hypomanic or manic (high or very high mood) episodes.

There are 2 main categories of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I — Where a person experiences long-lasting manic and depressive episodes, and in some cases psychosis (delusions or hallucinations).
  • Bipolar II — Where a person experiences highs that are less extreme that only last or a few hours or days, as well as depressive episodes, and periods of normal mood.

Other types of bipolar disorder include cyclothymic disorder, which involves intermittent mood changes that are milder than bipolar, and substance-induced bipolar disorder.

Around 2.2% of Australians report living with bipolar disorder in the last 12 months, and research shows people living with this condition are 10-30 times higher risk of suicide.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or if it is an emergency dial 000.

 

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

PMDD is a hormonal mood disorder which occurs in women before the start of their period. Not to be confused with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the symptoms of this condition are more severe and therefore are classified as a mood disorder. PMDD symptoms, however, only occur within a specific window of the menstrual cycle: 1-2 weeks before the start of a period. It is estimated that about 5% of women in Australia are living with PMDD.

Sadly, people living with PMDD are also at a significantly increased risk of suicidal behaviours. Research has shown that 72% reported thoughts of suicide in their lifetime.

 

Mood disorders: Signs and symptoms

While everyone experiences mood changes from time to time, people with mood disorders tend to have less control over these changes and the intensity and length to which they are experienced. Symptoms do vary in intensity for each individual however they are generally defined as prolonged changes to your mood, ranging from feeling very low or very high/irritable. These feelings can last for hours, days or even weeks at a time.

If a person’s quality of life is reduced by any of the following symptoms, or they interfere with their ability to engage in everyday life activities, it may classify as a mood disorder.  Here is a list of common signs and symptoms to be aware of:

  • Low mood or feeling sad
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty
  • Losing interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of extreme happiness or being ‘high’
  • Grandiose ideas or unrealistic plans
  • Inflated self-importance
  • A surge in energy levels
  • Racing thoughts and speech, poor concentration
  • Highly stimulated and easily distracted senses (inability to focus)
  • Fixation on tasks for long periods of time
  • Impulsive or risky behaviour
  • Seeing, feeling, hearing things that aren’t there

 

It’s often difficult to talk with someone who is experiencing manic symptoms about their thoughts and behaviours and the impact that they are having on their and other’s lives. This is due to the euphoric feelings associated with mania, where they report that they feel so good, that it can’t be a bad thing.

 

Mood disorders: Causes

A broad range of factors are thought to be mood disorder causes. From chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine (the happy hormones in the brain), to our genetics and family history, as well as experiencing traumatic or stressful life events.

Studies also show there may be a link to the size and structure of the brain with a mood disorder’s causes. For example, exposure to ongoing stress can impede the growth of certain nerve cells and result in a smaller hippocampus (an important part of the brain which helps with learning, memory and navigation) which is associated with depression.

 

Treatment and support for mood disorders

If you are experiencing symptoms of any of the mood disorders mentioned above, there are a range of treatments and resources available to support you. It is always recommended to start by talking to a healthcare professional such as your GP or a mental health expert to seek a diagnosis and care plan.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, some mood disorders can be successfully managed using prescribed medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics. It is also helpful to work with a trained mental health professional for support and to develop strategies to cope with the symptoms you are experiencing.

Effective therapeutic approaches for mood disorders include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). Many people also benefit from community support groups and by making lifestyle changes to manage stress. Such as practicing mindfulness, increasing exercise and building a strong support network.

 

By helping to raise awareness and reduce social stigmas of mood disorders, we can better support people living with these conditions. Mood disorders are widely considered very treatable and there are a range of supports available. Remember: Effective treatment means someone with a mood disorder can lead a life that is healthy and productive.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, our professional counsellors are available by phone or online chat 24/7. It’s a free service to Australians. Simply call 1300 659 467 or click on the floating chat widget on the right to access online counselling.

 

If it is an emergency, please call 000.

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