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What are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders are mental illnesses that primarily impact a person’s feelings, or mood. A person with a mood disorder might have primarily negative or primarily positive feelings, or maybe very few feelings at all. They might cycle back and forth from feeling unusually down to feeling on top of the world. Mood disorders are challenging to live with and frequently misunderstood, but they are also treatable. The two main mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder.

In depression, people feel unusually sad, empty, hopeless, or unhappy. They may have low self-esteem, a lack of energy, and little interest in the world around them. They may have trouble sleeping and eating regularly. Everyone feels blue now and then, but depression is different. It is much more intense than a typical down day. It lasts much longer, and it interferes with people’s ability to do the things they normally do. At its worst, depression can even lead to thoughts of suicide.

Bipolar disorder sometimes feels like depression. But a person with bipolar disorder cycles through periods of depressed mood and elevated mood, or mania. Mania is like the opposite of depression. Manic people might feel invincible and unusually happy. They might talk or move quickly and not need very much sleep. They might spend too much, eat too much, gamble, or engage in risky and impulsive behavior. In severe cases, they may even hear voices or hallucinate. There is a subset of bipolar disorder called bipolar II, with typical depression symptoms but a milder form of mania, called hypomania. Hypomania includes many of the feelings of full mania but fewer of the risky and dangerous behaviors. Approximately six million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. It tends to run in families, but the exact cause is still not well known.

There are several effective treatments available for mood disorders, including medications and talk therapy. Not every treatment will work for every person, so it sometimes takes time to find the right fit. A good mental health professional can help.
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