When Feeling “Off” Means Something More: 8 Common Symptoms of a Mood Disorder

symptoms of mood

Did you know that 20.9 million Americans over the age of 18 have a mood disorder?

Everyone experiences sadness, frustration, and irritability from time to time, but what is the line between having a bad day and having a mood disorder?

While many people may have heard of depression and bipolar disorder because they are common illnesses, there is much more to mood disorders than people may realize.

If you think that you or someone you know might have a mood disorder, keep reading this article to understand the signs and symptoms of a mood disorder.

What Is A Mood Disorder?

A mood disorder is the extreme lowering or elevation of someone’s mood to the point where it affects their daily lifestyle. There are three major types of mood disorder: depressive, manic, and bipolar.

Depressive mood disorders are extreme and prolonged cases of sadness and emptiness. Manic mood disorders are extremely elevated or expansive moods. Finally, bipolar mood disorders are a cycle between depressive and manic moods. Within those three major types of mood disorders also lie several subtypes.

Symptoms Of A Mood Disorder

A mood disorder is generally diagnosed once someone’s overall mood becomes detached or inconsistent with their surroundings.

1. Intense Moods Aren’t Linked To A Specific Trigger

Do you find your mood changing from cheerful to extremely sad? Frustrated to excited? Empty to hyper? Sometimes, these mood changes are warranted and are reactions to what is happening in your surroundings. However, if these moods are intense and you can’t link them to a specific cause, then you may have reason to pay attention to the following symptoms.

2. Your Moods Change Gradually

Many people perceive bipolar disorder to cause rapid changes in emotions such as going from happy to depressed within a few minutes or hours. However, bipolar disorder is, in fact, quite the opposite.

Bipolar disorder and many other mood disorders consist of gradual mood changes that happen over weeks or months. Instead of quick mood swings that can change at the drop of a pin, think long and intense periods of emotions that completely take over and cripple your life to the point where it prevents you from functioning normally.

3. Sudden Weight Loss Or Weight Gain

Weight change is a common sign that there is a deeper illness at stake. Mood disorders can easily alter someone’s appetite, causing them to eat more and gain weight or stop eating altogether and lose weight.

Losing and gaining weight is more than just binging, purging, and eliminating food. Instead, it is a sign that is often related to someone’s mood. People handle emotions in a variety of ways, and food can often be a way for people to try to control something in their life, which can cause excessive weight gain or weight loss. Weight change could even relate to the restlessness that associates with manic episodes in mood disorders.

4. Excessive Irritability

Irritability can be linked to all three categories of mood disorders. A sense of frustration can be a result of extreme mood changes. People who have yet to be diagnosed with mood disorders can become irritable because they are not understanding the physical and psychological changes that are happening to their body.

5. Unusual Risk-Taking Behaviors

Manic episodes are part of bipolar disorder and often yield unusual behaviors that last for at least one week. Risk-taking behaviors are defined as a high involvement in behaviors that have a high tendency to cause negative consequences.

Examples of risk-taking behaviors that can cause concern include spending an excessive amount of money on a random shopping spree, increased use of drugs or alcohol, or unusual sexual activity.

6. Loss Of Energy

On the other side of the spectrum from unusual risk-taking behaviors includes loss of energy. This relates to depressive mood disorders and bipolar disorders. A loss of energy can be tied to an extreme feeling of sadness or emptiness, loss of appetite and cases of the “blues”.

7. Loss Of Interest In Favorite Activities

Also related to loss of energy is a loss of interest in activities that you used to find exciting. When you have a mood disorder that causes depression, you may start to find it hard to participate in your favorite activities.

It is important to take note of this symptom because, eventually, this can turn into losing interest to complete daily life activities such as going to the grocery store or even taking a shower in the morning.

8. Frequent Thoughts Of Death Or Suicide

This is a very severe symptom of mood disorder and if you or some you know is experiencing this symptom, you should see your doctor or a mental health professional immediately. Thoughts of death or suicide can be a result of extreme depression and bipolar disorder.

Treatment For A Mood Disorder

Treatment plans are based on a patient’s specific disorder and the type of symptoms that are present. The severity of the symptoms plays a role as well.

Most treatment plans involve a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is often called talk therapy because it incorporates a variety of talking techniques in a therapy setting as opposed to using medications. It focuses on altering negative thought patterns or behaviors and, for some individuals, can be effective enough to work on its own. Other types of treatment include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, brain stimulation therapies, and light therapy.

Unfortunately, even with proper treatment, mood disorders tend to come and go throughout someone’s lifespan. Educating mood disorder patients about their illness, how to cope with their illness and how to recognize behavioral patterns can also help patients learn to live with a mood disorder.

To learn more about affording medication for mood disorders see page.

When To See A Doctor

Unfortunately, mood disorders do not usually go away on their own. It is important that if you or someone you know is experiencing some or all of these symptoms of a mood disorder to make an appointment to see a doctor or mental health professional.

If you find it difficult to talk to a medical professional, talk to someone who is close to you such as a family member, friend, coworker or anyone else you feel comfortable talking to. The important part is being able to open up to someone so you are not going through these emotions alone.