Moods and Mood Disorders

When you think of moods, what first comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the trendy mood rings in the 90’s, or some major names in the media like, Kanye West. Perhaps, you can hear your significant other uttering, “She’s moody – it must be that time of the month, again.”  Imaginably, you think of the seasons, ever changing temperatures and scenery. Maybe to you, it’s a feeling.  Moods that feel like a storm and you can sense the winds changing direction. Possibly a place where you feel your world has been colored with shades of black, and the music is playing, but there is no sound.  Moods can affect our whole world and those in it. Major depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the United States (Colman, 2006). But, what is mood really, and how is it related to mood disorders?

A mood is a person’s temporary emotional state (Mood Disorders, 2005). Someone’s mood can last anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks (Colman, 2006). Moods are not the same thing as emotions. Emotions are a direct reaction to something in our lives, from getting a promotion at work to getting that parking ticket.  In contrast, moods are a disposition where one is more prone to react in a specific way to the environment. Those suffering from a depressed mood will more likely react in a negative way than someone not depressed. For example, someone may have a sad feeling when they lose a loved one, while someone with a depressed mood is more prone to have a depressed temperament to all things for a longer period of time.

Notably, moods tend to last longer than emotions, and are more dynamic or change more than personality traits (Colman, 2006). Personality traits tend to be longer –lasting although mood and personality do affect one another. One’s personality traits are connected to the way one behaves and interacts with one’s environment, which is similar to moods. Those with a more optimistic personality trait are more likely to be energetic and positive than those with a pessimistic or insecure personality trait.

Mood disorders are a category of illnesses that describe a serious change in one’s mood (Gao, 2016). Approximately 9.5 percent of American adults have a mood disorder with an average age onset at 30 years old (Any Mood Disorder Among Adults, 2005). The term mood disorders is a general diagnostic phrase referring to illnesses such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder (long lasting low-grade depression), cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder), and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) (APA, 2013). Whatever the name, these are conditions that should not go untreated. Some mood disorders have an early onset, while some begin later in life. Mood disorders account for a majority of suicides, and are a leading cause for disability (Holland & Ponniah, 2015). Those with a diagnosed mood disorder are also at a higher risk of struggling with other co-occurring issues, like ADHD, substance use and depression. Luckily, there are supportive and effective treatments available, including psychotherapy and medications.

Many researchers have explored the reasons and causes for mood disorders and have established many notable causes.  Stress, sleep, genetics, nutrition and one’s environment, play a key role in developing a mood disorder. Individuals with a family history are more likely to develop one themselves. Further, life events such as a death in the family, financial troubles or even the change of the seasons or air quality can trigger a mood disorder. Importantly, women are at a 50% greater risk for experiencing a mood disorder over their lifetime as compared to men (Mood Disorders, 2005).

Since we cannot change out genes, we can change our habits, lifestyle factors and our environment. Recognize if you are getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. Lean on social support from friends and loved ones, to psychotherapists and medical professionals for assistance. Some of the mood disorders can develop slowly, leaving many of the symptoms to go unnoticed. Monitor your eating, social and physical exercise habits, making sure to balance both indoor and outdoor activities. Moods and attitudes can be enhanced simply by recognizing an issue, seeking treatment and maintaining prevention.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.

Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Any Mood Disorder Among Adults. (2005). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from:

Gao, K. (2016). Mood Disorders in 3 Clinical Reports. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from:

Hollon, S.D., & Ponniah, K. (2010). A review of empirically supported psychological therapies for mood disorders in adults. Depression and Anxiety, 27(10), 891-932.

Mood Disorders. (2005). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from:

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