Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Also known as: depression, anxiety, mental health disorders, affective disorders, and others.

What are mood disorders?

Mood and anxiety disorders cover a wide range of conditions that fall under the umbrella of mental health disorders.

Common mood disorders include:

  • Depression. Depression can take many forms and is characterized by feelings of sadness or hopelessness. In some cases, it can be related to substance abuse, changing seasons, or other factors. If symptoms last for two weeks or longer, this can indicate depression.
  • Bipolar disorder. If periods of depression alternate with periods of elevated mood or mania, this may be an indication of bipolar disorder.
  • Dysthymia. This is a chronic form of depression that lasts for two years or longer. It’s also known as persistent depressive disorder.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This mood disorder is like a more severe form of PMS. Mood changes and irritability typically begin during the premenstrual phase and last until menses begins.
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). This is a childhood mood disorder characterized by irritability and outbursts. Often, it involves behavior that is not consistent with the child’s age.

How are mood disorders detected?

Mood disorders in children/adolescents are more difficult to diagnose as they neither necessarily have the same symptoms nor express themselves as adults do. Mood disorders frequently coexist with other issues like anxiety, drug problems, and bad behavior.

All children have fears and worries every now and then. However, when it persists for most days, for weeks, interferes with sleep, causes difficulty concentrating or makes the child/adolescent irritable and easy to upset, an anxiety state is diagnosed. There are several types of anxiety disorders which include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, separation anxiety, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and others.

What causes mood disorders?

The causes of mood and anxiety disorders are multiple and varied. Some combination of genetics (running in families), changes in hormone levels, environmental factors such as grief, major or unexpected life changes and stress all appear to play a role.

In some cases, depression and other mood disorders can be related to substances. The most common cases are due to alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or certain medications. Toxin exposure can also lead to mood disorders.

What are the symptoms of mood disorders?

While everyone feels sad or depressed at times, symptoms can vary widely based on the specific condition. Common symptoms of mood disorders include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness and/or hopelessness
  • A feeling of being inadequate with low self-esteem
  • Guilt
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Fatigue and energy loss
  • Irritability, hostility and aggression
  • Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Frequent physical complaints 
  • And many other symptoms

 Anxiety brings extreme worry, fear, negative thoughts, shortness of breath and other symptoms.

When to consult a specialist?

If a person experiences any of the symptoms or a combination of the symptoms above, and they seem more intense or persistent than usual, then it’s worth a visit with a mental health specialist or primary care provider about mood disorders. Other warning signs are if symptoms are interfering with a person’s interest in family, friends, community, or work. If a person expresses suicidal thoughts, they need immediate help.

What are mood disorders care options?

Mood and anxiety disorders, depending on the diagnosis, are typically treated by alleviating a precipitating factor, with a combination of medication and psychotherapy (frequently cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal plus family therapy).

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: February 07, 2024 04:44 PM

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