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What is a Mood Disorder?

An individual may be diagnosed with a mood disorder if they experience persistent mood swings, low mood (depression) or elevated mood (mania) for an extended period of time.

Mood disorders are psychological conditions characterized by serious changes in one’s moods. Most people have feelings of sadness or happiness from time to time. Individuals with mood disorders experience persistently low (depressed) or persistently high (manic) moods — above and beyond what most would consider to be typical feelings of sadness or happiness.

Mood disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder — extremely low moods
  • Bipolar disorder — extremely high (manic, euphoric or hyperactive) and low moods
  • Persistent depressive disorder — depression that lasts more than three years
  • Cyclothymia — a less severe form of bipolar disorder that may include hypomania and episodes of moderate depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder — depression that occurs only during the winter, when there is less sunlight

Mood disorders can occur along with substance use, anxiety disorders, eating disorders or personality disorders.

Nearly one in ten adults in the U.S.. will experience a mood disorder in their lifetime and mood disorders have a strong genetic link. This means that you are more likely to develop a mood disorder if one of your close relatives also has a mood disorder.

Signs of a Mood Disorder

Signs of a mood disorder include serious changes in one’s moods (extremely low or extremely high).

Individuals experiencing depression may notice the following signs:

  • Changes in one’s energy levels, appetite, emotions, or sleep (for instance, eating or sleeping more or less than usual)
  • Feelings of indifference, worthlessness or irritability
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Loss of pleasure in things they used to enjoy

Depression can sneak up on people and it could take months or even years before the individual recognizes the problem.

Individuals experiencing mania may notice the following signs:

  • An increase in energy and confidence; feeling grandiose or important in some way
  • A decreased need for sleep without feeling more tired
  • Racing thoughts, ideas or speech
  • Feelings of irritability or feeling aggressive
  • Impulsivity or reckless tendencies

Mood disorders are associated with a number of health risks, including chronic medical conditions, an increased risk of hospitalization (particularly in younger adults) and an increased risk of suicide.

Mood Disorder Symptoms

Mood disorders are psychological conditions characterized by mood changes. In particular, individuals with mood disorders have extremely elevated (high) mood or depressed (low) mood — or both.

Mood disorders — including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, cyclothymia, and seasonal affective disorder — are complex illnesses, but effective treatment is available.

Mood disorders have a genetic link. You may be more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder if a close relative also has a mood disorder.

Mood disorder "lows" may include the following symptoms

  • Sadness or crying more than usual
  • Lack of interest in things one used to enjoy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness Social withdrawal
  • Having trouble concentrating or feeling indecisive
  • Irritability, anger, anxiety, pessimism or even indifference
  • Changes in energy, sleep, weight or appetite (sleeping or eating more or less than normal)
  • Persistent thoughts of death or suicide

Mood disorder "highs" may include the following symptoms

  • Having much more energy than usual
  • Having racing thoughts or talking faster than normal
  • Needing less sleep but not feeling more tired
  • Feeling grandiose, important, highly confident, or “special” in some way
  • Feeling impulsive, irritable, aggressive or reckless
  • Having poor judgment
  • In severe cases, having delusions or hallucinations

Health Risks of Mood Disorders

Individuals with serious mental illnesses, like mood disorders, face an increased risk of chronic health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • ​Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Arteriosclerosis

Adults living with serious, untreated mental illnesses die, on average, 25 years earlier. They are also more likely to be hospitalized. Untreated, individuals with mood disorders face a high risk of suicide mortality.

mood anxiety support group

Treatment for Mood Disorders

Mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorder, are a leading cause of hospitalization of adults age 18-44. When these illnesses are not treated, they often get worse — with a risk of serious complications, physical harm, or death.

The good news is that help is available and that a number of therapies are effective for mood disorders. With a combination of psychotherapy, medication and complementary supports, you can recover from a mood disorder — no matter how complex your illness is or how challenging your life has become.

At Pathlight, our specially-trained professionals can help you find balance and healing from whatever issues you are dealing with. In treatment, we support your work in recovery as you learn about your moods, connect with your values, and build, maintain, and improve relationships in your life.

Get Help for Mood Disorders

You may be familiar with what depression is, and you may even be familiar with bipolar disorder. But many people are less familiar with the term “mood disorder.” A mood disorder is a psychological condition characterized by serious changes in one’s moods — typically persistently low (depressed) or persistently high (manic). These moods are above and beyond what most would consider to be typical feelings of sadness or happiness.

The most common mood disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder — extremely low moods
  • Bipolar disorder — extremely high (manic, euphoric or hyperactive) and low moods
  • Persistent depressive disorder — depression that lasts more than three years
  • Cyclothymia — a less severe form of bipolar disorder that may include hypomania and episodes of moderate depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder — depression that occurs only during the winter, when there is less sunlight

If you are seeking a residential or partial hospitalization program for a mood disorder, life has probably become overwhelming. We want you to know that you are not alone in this!

Our doctors and therapists will guide you through recovery, teach you helpful tools, and offer you new ways to manage your thoughts, emotions, behavioral, and physical reactions to life’s challenges.

Treatment for Depression & Bipolar Disorders

As you compare your options of where to seek treatment for a mood disorder, we encourage you to consider a number of factors. One of the most important factors that you should consider is each treatment team’s professional experience and expertise. This list below shows the depth and breadth of the training and backgrounds of the clinical staff that work here at Pathlight:

  • Our doctors and therapists are highly educated and credentialed. Pathlight Behavioral Health Centers employs many MDs and PhDs/PsyDs with extensive training in mood disorders.
  • The staff at Pathlight value and pursue ongoing education and training on the latest, most effective treatments that help patients overcome mood disorders, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Radically Open DBT (RO-DBT), and Behavioral Activation.
  • Our clinicians are trained in multi-cultural competency and are experienced in working with patients of all genders and from diverse backgrounds.
  • We are familiar with treating a range of severity, a range of diagnoses, and a range of different life experiences.
  • Our experts know how to support someone through common feelings related to mood disorders such as pervasive loneliness, overwhelm, loss, anger, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Should you choose to seek treatment at Pathlight, we will tailor your mood disorder treatment based on your needs and priorities. We do this through the use of individual and group therapy. During your one-on-one meetings with your therapist you will be able to map out your treatment goals and, in groups, you can explore how to get there. We use the power of knowledge to help you break the maladaptive patterns in your life, teach you how to manage your moods, and help you move toward a more fulfilling life.

Therapy for Mood Disorders

Specific therapies are known to help people with mood disorders, and we are proud that all of our clinicians either specialize in — or have extensive training in — the following mood disorder treatments:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) including Behavioral Activation & Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

These therapies have been found to be the most effective, evidence-based treatments for mood disorders.

In addition, our on-site psychiatrists provide regular medication management for all of the patients in our Residential and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP).

During your time at Pathlight, a primary goal will be to help you learn how to regulate your emotions safely and effectively. To support our patients in these explorations, our therapists will work with you to address the wellness of your mind, body and spirit with experiential therapies (movement, art, and yoga).

Each week, your individual therapist will work closely with you to make sure that you are making progress in treatment. We customize treatment to each individual and do our best to ensure that each patient receives specialized therapy in their work with us.

Finding Balance in Mood Disorder Treatment

One of the challenges of mood disorder treatment is that every patient has a different story and will respond differently to medications and talk therapy. Over the first month of treatment, you will become familiar with our evidence-based therapies and can start using your new skills on a regular basis.

You may find it promising to know that most of our patients experience symptom reduction within the first 11 days.

As far as treatment effectiveness, we’ve queried patients over the years and found that our patients experience statistically significant decreases in these areas following treatment:

Our patients also experience statistically significant increases in the areas of:

  • Accomplishment
  • Positive emotions
  • Relationship quality
  • Meaning

We invite you to review our past patients’ experiences to see what they say about treatment at Pathlight:

  • 84 percent of patients who complete our partial hospitalization program report feeling satisfied with their treatment.
  • 89 percent of patients who complete our intensive outpatient program report feeling satisfied with treatment.
  • 86 percent of patients completing PHP and 90 percent of patients completing IOP say that they would refer a friend or family member to our treatment center.

It may be difficult to see the success that lies in your future, but we are trained to help you take the steps — no matter how big or how small — to move towards your goals, even when you are struggling. We will support you, offer our encouragement and celebrate your successes each day in treatment.

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