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Mood Disorders – Do Any of These Sound Familiar?

by Andrea M. Darcy

Not yourself lately? Or feel all over the place? Mood disorders are treatable conditions that many of us experience.

What is a mood disorder?

Mood disorders are pretty much what they sound like.

They are a group of mental health diagnoses were the main issue is changes to how you feel that don’t match what is going on around you. These make day-to-day life a challenge, or, in a worst case scenario, leave you suicidal

Also referred to as ‘mood affective disorders’, you probably know a few already, like depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

The classification of mood affective disorders

Mood disorders are described and diagnosed in slightly different ways, depending on what country you live in and what diagnostic manual is being used. And the way they are classified has seen a lot of changes of late. 

America has their own manual, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders” (DSM). In the previous version, the DSM-IV, mood disorders formed their own section.

The latest version the DSM-V, however, has done away with the section, making separate sections for ‘bipolar disorders’ and ‘depressive disorders’. And they have taken out ‘mood disorder not otherwise specified’. This means a psychiatrist has to slot you under bipolar or depressive, even if your symptoms are ambiguous. 

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The rest of the world tends to use the World Health Organisation’s “International Classification of Diseases” (ICD). This is currently in the process of being updated from version ICD-1o to ICD-11, so we may see changes there, too. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the governing body which puts out the guides for diagnoses that most UK health practitioners use, avoids this confusion entirely. It doesn’t even use the category ‘mood affective disorder’. It instead chooses to recognise and advise on each mental health condition separately. 

Common mood disorders

There are certainly a lot of mood disorders, if you take into account subsets and variations.

  • You can find the full set listed in the ICD-10 here.
  • And find out about those listed in America’s DSM here.

And as pointed out above, the exact ways mood affective disorders are classified changes from time to time. But a general list of common disorders could look like:

1. Low moods.

The one we all know about is when our moods dive and we are low, or ‘depressed mood disorders’. The ICD classifies these under ‘depressive episode’ or ‘recurrent depressive disorder’. They include things like:

2. Elevated moods. 

Elevated mood disorders see you feel too ‘high’ on emotions. The ICD classifies these under ‘manic episodes’. 

  • mania with or without psychotic episodes 
  • hypomania.

3. Cycling moods. 

Or we can have moods that go from one end to the other, a ‘cycling’ mood disorder.

4. Mild but seemingly endless mood issues. 

Sometimes we have mild issues that go on for years and don’t seem to respond well to treatment, like always feeling slightly miserable.

The ICD-10 groups these under their own category, “persistent affective mood disorders’:

  • cyclothymia (long-term mild depression)
  • dysthymia (long-term mild bipolar disorder).

5. Substance induced moods.

There are also mood disorders caused by using psychoactive or chemical substances, heavy alcohol use, or during withdrawal from drug use.

  • substance/medication-induced depressive disorder (DSM-V)
  •  mental and behavioural disorders due to use of opioids (ICD-10).

6. Illness related mood issues. 

And sometimes we have a mood disorder because we have an illness that has caused it, like brain damage or physical disease.

  • depressive disorder due to another medical condition (DSM-V)
  • or ‘organic’ mood disorder; organic depression, organic bipolar disorder, etc. (ICD-IV).

7. Moods issues that don’t match other categories.

You might have moods that don’t make sense and cause you problems, but don’t seem to fit any of the above categories. As stated above, the DSM-V has gotten rid of any section for this, although before they had a category of ‘mood disorder not otherwise specified’. But the ICD-10 still maintains categories of:

  • other mood affective disorder
  • unspecified mood affective disorder.

Why did I end up like this? 

It’s not completely understood, and it depends on the individual. There are genetic, environmental, and even evolutionary possibilities for why you have a mood disorder.

You might be born more predisposed than others to having mood problems. Some of us naturally have a more neurotic personality. This means that if we then cross stressful experiences or grow up in a challenging home (environments), then that tendency can be triggered.

Some research shows that mood disorders are part of the way humans have evolved to survive [1]. An example is seasonal affective disorder. If our bodies made us less interested in going out and being social in winter, that meant we would conserve energy, which might have given us a greater chance of staying alive during times of scarcity.

And then other research links mood disorders to DNA. In twin studies, for example, if one twin has depression, the other has more than a 75% chance of also having it [2].

And depression is linked to having a high percentage of neanderthal DNA [3].

What is the recommended treatment?

In some cases medications are prescribed.

But talk therapy can go a long way with many mood disorders. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) here in the UK recommends the following talk therapies for depression:

And don’t overlook the benefits of self-care. Healthy eating, better sleep hygiene, and exercise have all been linked to better moods.

And psychological self-care like saying no and setting firm personal boundaries can go a long way to minimising stress

An important note about a ‘mental health diagnosis’

It’s important to understand what a mental health diagnosis is. They are simply terms created by mental health practitioners to describe groups of people with similar symptoms that meant they are outside the accepted ‘norm’ of health and behaviour at any give time.

A mental health diagnosis is not an illness you can see under a microscope. Nor are they set in stone, as the confusion around mood disorder diagnosis above points too. Diagnostic manuals are reviewed and changed every few years.

Why does it matter? Because you are not a diagnosis. You are still you, unique, not exactly like anyone else, with weaknesses but also strengths. There is no need to let a diagnosis become a box you can’t get out of. Recognise there is an issue, then seek proper support so that the issue doesn’t stop you from being yourself. 

Time to treat your mood disorder and get back to being you again? We connect you with highly rated and experienced therapists in central London. Or use our booking platform to find a UK-wide therapist or an online counsellor you can talk to from anywhere in the world. 


Andrea M. Darcy mental health expertAndrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer. She also runs a consultancy helping people find their perfect therapy and therapist. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy




[1].  Allen, N.; Badcock, P. (2006). “Darwinian models of depression: A review of evolutionary accounts of mood and mood disorders”. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 30 (5): 815–826. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2006.01.007PMID 16647176.

[2]. Kendler KS, Prescott CA. A Population-Based Twin Study of Lifetime Major Depression in Men and Women. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56(1):39–44. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.56.1.39.

[3]. Simonti CN, Vernot B, Bastarache L, et al. The phenotypic legacy of admixture between modern humans and Neandertals. Science. 2016;351(6274):737-741. doi:10.1126/science.aad2149.

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Blog Topics: Depression

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