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Mood Disorders

Mood Disorders: Severe Disturbances in Emotionmood

Emotion-Based Disturbance Strong Enough to Intrude on Everyday Life

Major Depression:  Extreme Sadness, Despair, With No Obvious Cause

Characterized by:

  • Episodes of deep unhappiness
  • Loss of interest in life

Mood disorders – Psychological disorders characterized by usually severe or prolonged disturbances of mood.

  • The major forms of mood disorder: 1) depressive disorders and 2) bipolar disorders and related disorders (mood swing disorders).
  • There are two major types of depressive disorders that vary in severity: major depressive disorder, the more severe type; and persistent depressive disorder, the milder type.
  • Bipolar disorders vary in terms of severity – the more severe disorder is called bipolar disorder, whereas the milder disorder is termed cyclothymic disorder (also called cyclothymia).

Secondary symptoms include:

  • Elevated or decreased changes in sleep and appetite
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of overall energy
  • Difficulties concentrating and making decisions

Major Depression:

Across different places and cultures women are diagnosed more frequently with depression than men


  • Major depressive disorder – A severe mood disorder characterized by major depressive episodes in the absence of mania or hypomania.
  • Mania – A state of unusual elation, energy, and activity.
  • Hypomania – A relatively mild state of mania.

Major depression impairs people’s ability to meet the ordinary responsibility of everyday life.

  • People with major depression may lose interest in most of their usual activities and pursuits, have difficulty concentrating and making decisions, have pressing thoughts of death, and attempt suicide.
  • They even show impaired driving skills in driving simulation tests (Bulmash et al., 2006).

Factors that place people at increased risk of developing major depression include:

  • Age (initial onset is most common among young adults)
  • Socioeconomic status (people lower down the socioeconomic ladder are at greater risk than those who are better off)

Bipolar Disorder: Severe Mood Swings From Depressive to Manic Episodes

  • Characterized by:
  • An internal struggle with depression (usually the dominant state)
  • Alternated with periods of mania, a state of highly excited moods of euphoria and grandeur

Dysthymia: Moderate Depressive Symptoms

  • A form of depression that has less dramatic effects on personal and occupational functioning
  • Can also last for longer periods than major depression
  • People with persistent depressive disorder may have either chronic major depressive disorder or a chronic but milder form of depression called dysthymia.
  • Dysthymia derives from Greek roots dys, meaning “bad” or “hard,” and thymos, meaning “spirit.”
  • People with dysthymia feel “down in the dumps” most of the time, often for years, but are not as severely depressed as those with major depressive disorder.

Cyclothymia: Moderate Mood Swings

  • A mild form of depression that may include long-term bouts of irritability
  • Likened to a milder form of dysthymia

Causes of Mood Disorders:


  • Occurs when an early traumatic loss or rejection creates vulnerability that is not properly resolved


  • Learned via reinforcement
  • May be triggered by a loss or some other punishing event


  • A person’s perceptions, thoughts, or self statements cause feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy


  • Created through genetics and neuro-chemical factors

Family Issues:

  • Caused from our surrounding culture, family, friends, and the presence or absence of a strong social support network when dealing with negative factors

Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Comer, R.J. (2013). Abnormal Psychology (8th ed).  Worth Publishers
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5) American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013
Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Sue,Sue, and Sue (2014).  Understanding Abnormal Behavior (10th Ed), Cengage Learning

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