Mood disorders are a mental health condition classified under their own category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5. Mood disorders are amongst the most common psychological disorders and are said to be on the rise globally. By definition, mood disorders are disturbances in an individual’s emotions that cause subjective discomfort and/or hinder a person’s ability to function, or both.  They are primarily characterised by chemical imbalances (norepinephrine and serotonin mainly) in the brain. The DSM 5 distinguishes between unipolar disorders and bipolar disorders. Individuals who suffer from either depression or mania are said to suffer from a unipolar mood disorder whereas individuals who alternate between mania and depression are said to suffer a bipolar disorder.

Females are overrepresented in the diagnosis of mood disorders. This could be due to a variety of reasons. The most common speculation is that females are more likely to seek help when they notice imbalances in their mood as opposed to their male counterparts. There is also a lot of stigmas attached to mental health. This results in indirect support rendered to women to seek help for suspected mental health problems, however, males not being afforded the same option.

There is no single factor implicated in the diagnosis of mood disorders. Rather, researchers state that mood disorders result from a combination of environmental, psychological, biological and genetic factors.

An overview of some of the disorders classified under mood disorders:

Bipolar I: their mood is elated, and they are very irritable. They have flighty and pressured thought they lack focus and attention and they usually exhibit poor judgement. Their speech can be described as being overactive, they are very talkative and difficult to follow in conversation. They have high levels of arousal and a decreased need for sleep. Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey and

“Simoneau, Miklowitz, and Saleem (1998) found that families of bipolar patients who are high in expressed emotions (such as critical, hostile, or emotionally overinvolved attitudes) create stressful family interaction patterns.”

Major Depressive Disorder: is a unipolar mood disorder characterised by pervasive feelings of sadness, unhappiness, apathy, anxiety, and brooding. Additionally, these individuals are plagued by pessimism and guilt and usually exhibit the inability to concentrate for long periods of time. They have a loss of interest in activities they use to enjoy, and they are less motivated than their non-depressed counterparts. They exhibit low energy, often there is a neglect of personal appearance, excessive crying, and overall agitation. They either have poor or increased appetite, they have sleep disturbances and often loss of libido.

Mood disorder due to a general medical condition: characterised by depressed mood and/or elevated or irritable mood as a direct result of a general medical condition. Symptoms must be serious enough to cause significant impairment in social, or occupational functioning or marked distress.

Substance-induced mood disorder: prominent and persistent disturbance of mood, attributable to the use of a substance or to the cessation thereof. Needs to cause notable distress and impairment in one’s social and occupational functioning.

“According to the learned helplessness theory of depression, people become depressed when they believe they have no control over the stress in their lives.” – Barlow & Durand, 2001

Risk factors

Sleep disturbance is a very important risk factor for depression, bipolar disorder, and suicidality (Papadimitriou, Dikeos, Soldatos 2003;  Sjöström, Waern, and Hetta 2007).

There is a variety of treatment options available to individuals who suffer from mood disorders. The first line of treatment is antidepressants. The second form of intervention available to individuals who suffer from mood disorders is psychosocial treatment. The most effective form of psychosocial intervention is said to be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The second recommended intervention is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is also a form of treatment for mood disorders, however, is less common.