What Are Mood Disorders?

Mood Disorders
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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), mood disorders include depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, and depression and mania or hypomania due to a medical condition or caused by substance use. Here is a brief rundown of each category of mood disorders.

Depressive Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder
This has two subcategories -- single episode and multiple episodes.

In both cases, the array of symptoms includes most of the same symptoms as a depressive episode of bipolar disorder, such as profound sadness, diminished interest in activities, fatigue, indecisiveness, thoughts of death and suicide, etc. The key is that five or more of the symptoms listed in the Manual appear nearly every day for at least two weeks.​

Dysthymic Disorder
Dysthymic disorder has a shorter list of symptoms: reduced or increased appetite, sleeping too much or having insomnia, low energy/fatigue, lack of concentration or indecisiveness, and feelings of hopelessness. Irritability is also a symptom of dysthymia in children. Two or more of these symptoms must be present more often than not for a period of two years (one year for children).

Bipolar Disorders

This includes:

There is also bipolar disorder "not otherwise specified" for any condition that "appears to fall into the larger category but does not meet the criteria of any specific disorder within that category." The same is true for depressive disorders.

Mood Disorders Due to a General Medical Condition

This is diagnosed when:

  • The patient is depressed or has lost interest in activities
  • There is significant impairment in important areas of functioning
  • The patient's mood is elevated, expansive or irritable, or a combination of these
  • There is medical evidence to support the diagnosis
  • The change in mood is not due to stress of the medical condition
  • The change in mood doesn't occur only in delirium

When diagnosing bipolar disorder, medical tests to rule out other physical conditions should be done and/or medical and family history information should be gathered. For example, Lyme disease can often mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Substance-Induced Mood Disorders

This can be caused by the use of alcohol and street drugs or medications. The criteria for this diagnosis are:

  • The symptoms must occur within a month of either being intoxicated by or starting to withdraw from the substance, not during intoxication.
  • There is no evidence of any mood disorders before the use of the given substance, or symptoms continue for longer than usual for a particular substance.
  • The change in mood doesn't occur only in delirium.
  • The patient's mood is depressed, elevated, expansive or irritable, or a mixed combination of these.

The DSM-IV notes: "This diagnosis should be made instead of a diagnosis of substance intoxication or substance withdrawal only when the mood symptoms are in excess of those usually associated with the intoxication or withdrawal syndrome and when the symptoms are sufficiently severe to warrant independent clinical attention."

Note: Other countries may have different diagnostic criteria


APA Diagnostic Classification - DSM-IV-TR. BehaveNet® Clinical Capsule™. BehaveNet®.

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