Quick Links

Mood Disorders

Variations in mood are a regular part of everyday life and daily events (i.e. sleep, weather, physiological cycles, etc.) can influence one’s mood.

Mood disorders are distinct from normal variations in moods by:

  • Their depth

  • Their persistence

  • Their disruption of one’s ability to function

The most common mood disorders include:

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

An adjustment disorder is characterized by the inability to cope with a recent important life event or stressful life transition.

Adjustment disorders are very common and can sometimes be accompanied by depressed mood.

  • The symptoms are usually mild and will go away with support from family and friends

  • Symptoms generally tend to get better with time  

  • If the symptoms are severe, professional help may be necessary

Some common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness and/or depression

  • Sense of hopelessness

  • Being tearful and/or having bouts of uncontrollable crying

  • Lack of pleasure in activities or things that were previously enjoyed

Treatment normally involves counselling or short-term psychotherapy.

  • In certain cases, mild medication is also an effective form of treatment

Dysthymic Disorder

Dysthymic disorder (also known as chronic depression) is usually characterized by long-lasting, but somewhat moderate, feelings of emptiness and/or sadness.  

Dysthymia can result from a combination of factors such as:

  • Chronic negative life events

  • Biological factors

  • Patterns of negative thinking

Dysthymia can persist for years if left untreated.

Common symptoms experienced by people with dysthymia include:

  • Low energy

  • Decreased concentration and/or attention

  • Loss of interest or motivation in activities

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia

  • Pronounced Pessimism

  • Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicide  

Treatment  for dysthymia normally involves therapy (and in some cases the use of medication).

  • Treatment may help people become more adaptive in their daily lives

  • Treatment may help uncover the roots of negative self-perceptions which are normally at the core of this disorder

Major Depression

Major depression is characterized by a persistent depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in activities lasting for at least 2 weeks.

Major depression is also accompanied by a number of the following symptoms:

  • Appetite disturbances

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Low energy

  • Feeling agitated

  • Feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Frequent thoughts of suicide and/or death

These symptoms are not only common in all kinds of depression, but are also frequent in an array of stress related disorders.

Major depression is different from other mood and/or stress related problems by the:

  • Severity of the symptoms

  • Persistence of symptoms

Research demonstrates that depression is treatable and a variety of options exist. These include several forms of talk therapy as well as medication. The proper treatment should be based on finding a treatment that is comfortable for you as well as the expert opinion of your health professional.

Bipolar Disorder (also known as Manic-Depressive Disorder)

Bipolar disorder is the most distinct and dramatic of the affective disorders.  

  • The onset of bipolar disorder occurs most often during early adulthood

  • There is evidence to suggest a genetic predisposition to developing bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is different from other forms of mood disorders in in that:

  • People living with bipolar disorder experience both periods of mania (i.e. periods of abnormally positive mood and impulsivity) and bouts of severe depression (usually lastings days to months and not hours to days)

  • People will also have periods of “normal” moods in between the manic and depressed phases

Common manic symptoms include:

  • An excessively euphoric mood

  • Reckless behaviour  

  • Often appear “speedy” or hyperactive

  • Thought process is difficult to follow (the individual in question may consider it to be genius)

  • Disrupted sleep patterns/belief that they do not require sleep  

Although sometimes extremely disabling, bipolar disorder is a treatable condition. Treatment generally involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

The most well known medication used to treat this disorder is lithium carbonate, although there are several other options.

Psychotherapy helps people understand the stresses of both the illness and everyday life while also teaching them to manage their emotions, and how to avoid potential relapses.

For more information on mood disorders please see the following links: 

Depression & Young People  

Depression or Burnout: Treatment & Prevention

Depression: Types & Causes  

Bipolar Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment