MSD Manual

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Overview of Mood Disorders

By

William Coryell

, MD, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2023
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Mood disorders are mental health conditions that involve long periods of excessive sadness (depression), excessive elation (mania), or both. Depression and mania represent the 2 emotional extremes of mood disorders.

Sadness and happiness are part of everyday life and are different from severe emotional issues that are diagnosed as the depression and mania that are experienced by people with mood disorders.

Sadness is a natural response to loss, defeat, disappointment, trauma, or catastrophe. Grief or bereavement is the most common of the normal reactions to a loss or separation, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or romantic disappointment. Usually, bereavement and loss do not cause persistent, incapacitating depression except in people predisposed to mood disorders. In some people, loss of a loved one causes more persistent and disabling depression, which has been termed prolonged grief disorder Prolonged grief disorder Depression is a feeling of sadness and/or a decreased interest or pleasure in activities that becomes a disorder when it is intense enough to interfere with functioning. It may follow a recent... read more .

Did You Know...

  • Many people who visit a doctor say they feel depressed, but only a few have depression that is severe enough to be diagnosed as a mood disorder.

Happiness, elation, or joy are emotions people experience when they are feeling positive about something. Mania is an abnormal mood state that may feel like happiness to a person who has a mood disorder and is in the middle of a manic episode. It is typically associated with periods of excessive excitement, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. During a manic episode, individuals may experience a decreased need for sleep, inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, racing thoughts, rapid speech, distractibility, and engagement in risky behaviors. Mania is significantly different from a normal range of emotions and can lead to impairment in functioning and relationships.

A mood disorder is diagnosed when sadness or elation is more intense than usual, is accompanied by certain other symptoms, and impairs the ability to function physically, socially, and at work.

  • Major depressive disorder

  • Persistent depressive disorder

  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

  • Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder

About 30% of people report depression as one of their symptoms when they see their doctor. But fewer than 10% actually have severe depression. Nearly 4% of the U.S. population have a bipolar disorder.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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