What Are the 5 Most Common Types of Mood Disorders?

Medically Reviewed on 1/19/2022
What Are the 5 Most Common Types of Mood Disorders
Mood disorders are a group of mental illnesses that impact mood and related functions. Learn about the 5 most common types and their symptoms

Mood disorders are a group of mental illnesses that impact mood and related functions. A mood disorder often interferes with daily life and eventually leads to behavioral disturbances, causing feelings of constant overwhelming sadness, irritability, anger, or stress

The 5 most common types of mood disorders are: 

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Mood disorder related to another health condition
  • Substance-induced mood disorder

5 types of mood disorders

1. Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is characterized by alternating episodes of both mania and depression. During an episode of mania, the patient is in an elevated mood, feels extreme happiness, and presents with high energy levels. During an episode of depression, the patient is in a very low mood and acts as if there is no hope for life.

Bipolar disorder is subdivided into 4 types:

  • Bipolar I: A person with bipolar I disorder has episodes of mania that last a week or more and may or may not have symptoms of depression. Manic symptoms may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. If the person has depression, symptoms may last for more than 2 weeks.
  • Bipolar II: A person with bipolar II has symptoms of both mania and depression. Compared to bipolar I, mania in bipolar II is usually milder (hypomania). However, the depression episode lasts longer and may occur before or after a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder, also called cyclothymia, is a type of mood disorder in which a person experiences a series of "highs" and "lows" that are unconnected to their daily lives. Cyclothymic disorder is thought to be a milder variant of bipolar disorder, although it can still have a significant impact on the person’s life. Symptoms interfere with the ability to function properly due to sudden and intense mood fluctuations. An adult patient must experience mania and depression for 2 years in order to be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder. Children must experience mania and depression for 1 year in order to be diagnosed with the disorder.
  • Other types: If a person has symptoms that do not fall into one of the other categories of bipolar disorder, they are classified as type IV or other. Factors such as drugs, alcohol, or underlying medical conditions may contribute to this form of bipolar disorder.

2. Major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder is characterized by a severe and prolonged low mood, intense sadness, irritability, or sense of dread. A person suffering from serious depression may also be unable to appreciate things that are normally pleasurable.

Major depression is more than just being in a foul mood, having a bad day, or experiencing a brief period of despair. Major depressive symptoms are described as lasting at least 2 weeks, but they commonly continue much longer, for months or even years.

3. Dysthymia

Dysthymia is also called persistent depressive disorder (PDD), which is characterized by mild depression for an extended period, at least 2 years for adults and 1 year for adolescents and teenagers. Unlike major depressive disorder (MDD), in which a person has severe episodes that come and go, people with PDD experience mild episodes that last much longer.

4. Mood disorder related to another health condition

Changes in mood caused by depression may be a result of underlying health issues, such as cancer and HIV, or medications taken for a medical condition.

5. Substance-induced mood disorder

Substance-induced mood disorder, a generic diagnosis that covers opioid-induced depressive disorder, is an illness that develops when an individual suffers persistent depressive symptoms following substance use (such as an opioid), dosage reduction, or withdrawal.


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What are symptoms of mood disorders?

Mood disorders are characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Mood fluctuations
  • Bouts of depression
  • Impatience
  • Restlessness
  • Unusual sleep habits
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed

In severe cases, the patient may present with:

Mood disorder symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder. For example, during a manic phase of bipolar disorder, a person may exhibit overexcitement and risky behavior. During a depressive episode, they may be extremely melancholy and show little interest in doing anything.

How are mood disorders diagnosed?

Physical exams are conducted to rule out any underlying medical issues that could be affecting mood. Doctors will also take into consideration family history, life events, and symptoms in order to make a diagnosis.

If other health conditions are ruled out, a mental health professional may conduct a series of tests to assess mood stability and mental health. Neuroimaging studies show promise in terms of improving diagnosis accuracy.

Due to the social stigma associated with mood disorders, many people are hesitant to seek treatment. As a result, many people go untreated, and only about 20% of those who are identified as having a mood disorder receive therapy.

What are treatment options for mood disorders?

People with mood disorders can live stable, productive, and healthy lives when they receive appropriate treatment. Treatment options may include:

  • Medical treatment: Antidepressants and mood-stabilizing medications, particularly when paired with psychotherapy, have been shown to be quite effective in the treatment of depression.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy typically includes cognitive behavioral and interpersonal therapy. This type of therapy aims to change the person's skewed perceptions of themselves and the world around them, helping them develop interpersonal relationship skills, identify triggers, and figure out ways to avoid them.
  • Family counseling: Family support is essential to therapy and treatment. Involving family members and helping them understand what the affected individual is going through can help with the treatment process.
  • Other treatments: Electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation are other types of treatment that may be used to treat mood disorders.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/19/2022
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Cedars-Sinai. Overview of Mood Disorders. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/o/overview-of-mood-disorders.html

PSYCOM. Mood Disorders. https://www.psycom.net/mood-disorders

University Hospitals. Mood Disorder Treatments. https://www.uhhospitals.org/services/adult-psychiatry-psychology/conditions-treatments/mood-disorders