by Scholten A
(Affective Disorder)


A mood disorder is a condition with serious mood changes. It can affect work, school, and social life.

Common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder. Others may include dysthymia or adjustment disorder.


The exact cause of mood disorders is not known. They are likely due to physical and mental traits. They can also come from changes in the brain.

The Brain
Brain Man Face
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Mood disorders are more common in women. However, they also occur in men.

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • A family history of mood disorder
  • Previous depression
  • Stressful events
  • Long term illness
  • Certain drugs or medicines


Symptoms can vary. They may be:

  • Lasting sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or guilty
  • Feeling tired, restless, or irritable
  • Problems sleeping
  • Loss of interest in sex, hobbies, and activities
  • Problems with memory, focus, or decisions
  • Changes in eating or weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Sometimes there are physical symptoms. Examples are aches and pains that cannot be explained.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor may give questionnaires. They will focus on mental health.

The doctor may want to rule out other conditions first. It may take time to diagnose a mood disorder.


The goal is to ease symptoms and improve function. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition. Severe mood disorders may need hospital care. Care is urgent if someone might hurt themselves or others.

A number of treatments may be used. Options may be:

  • Medicines, such as:
    • Antidepressants
    • Mood stabilizers.
  • Counseling—to help with coping
  • Lifestyle changes, such as:
    • A healthy diet
    • Daily physical activity—to ease symptoms and stress.
    • Limiting alcohol or drugs

Sometimes symptoms last, despite treatment. If symptoms are severe and lasting, options may be:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy—a brief electric pulse to the brain to help reset it
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)—an implanted device that may alter signals to the brain
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)—a device that sends pulses to the brain


There are no current guidelines to prevent mood disorders. However, early treatment may help reduce how severe they are.


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance 

Mental Health America 


Canadian Mental Health Association 

Canadian Psychiatric Association 


Depression in older adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2021.

Major depressive disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2021.

Mood disorders. Mental Health America website. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2021.

Overview of mood disorders. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:,P00759. Accessed March 12, 2021.

Rakofsky J, Rapaport M. Mood disorders. continuum. Behavioral Neurology and Psychiatry. 2018 ;24(3):804-827.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 01/2021
  • Update Date: 03/12/2021