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Understanding Common Mood Disorders

Mood disorders affect people of all ages and can have a profoundly negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Mood disorders impact far more than emotions. They can impact sleeping and eating habits, the ability to do daily tasks, relationships with other people, and even become a threat to health and safety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 14 percent of teens experience a mood disorder. 

What is a Mood Disorder? 

A mood disorder is a type of mental health classification used to describe all types of depression and bipolar disorders, characterized by cycling episodes of mania followed by depression. People of all ages can have mood disorders, but symptoms may differ in children and teens. Mood disorders in teens are difficult to diagnose because they are not always able to express their feelings. Typically, a combination of therapy, support, self-care and anti-depressants are used to treat and manage mood disorders. 

Common Mood Disorders

This is a very short list of some of the more common mood disorders and a little bit about each one:


Depression involves a change in mood, but it is not limited to sadness, especially in teens. Often, it is characterized by a lack of interest in life, an inability to feel normal emotions, or even becoming irritable and easily angry.

There are various criteria for diagnosing depression, but when there is a history of depression or if these moods last daily for two weeks or more, it is important to seek help.

In addition to a change in mood, depression can significantly impact sleep patterns, causing insomnia or fatigue. Changes in eating, feelings of restlessness, and the inability to concentrate may also be symptoms of depression. People with depression report feeling helpless, worthless, overwhelmed, or pessimistic. Depression can also lead to suicidal thoughts which can be intense and uncontrollable. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of both depression and periods of mania or hypomania (a less intense form of mania). Each period, or episode, typically lasts four to six weeks; sometimes longer. Some people have longer periods of depression, while others have more mania or hypomania.

The depressive episodes include everything listed above, but in between periods of depression, there will also be manic or hypomanic episodes cycling months, weeks or several times a year. 

In a hypomanic state, a person has plenty of energy, needs very little sleep, and can be very creative and/or productive. Speech is usually very rapid, sometimes also very loud. People with hypomania are increasingly less aware of others’ needs or opinions. It is also common to spend money very frivolously. People who are hypomanic may lose normal inhibitions and use substances or be sexually active in ways that they normally are not.

Mania is everything that hypomania is but magnified. During a manic episode, a person will experience racing thoughts, excessive physical activity, agitation, inflated self-esteem and an inability to concentrate. They may not sleep at all or sleep very little. They may see or hear things that others do not, or feel like they are invincible. People in a manic state are often irritable and rude, overly friendly, or even aggressive – sometimes in the same hour or with the same people. They are more likely to engage in dangerous activities, such as unprotected sex or substance use.

They may take massive risks with their safety, such as believing that they can fly. A manic episode generally warrants hospitalization because it is so dangerous 

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is similar to bipolar disorder, but with less extreme symptoms. It is characterized by periods of mood swings in which depression and elevated moods alternate and are unpredictable.

Despite having symptoms that are more mild than bipolar, it still interferes with life, particularly because of the length of time that it lasts.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), also known as Dysthymia

PDD is a long-term form of depression that can exist for years. This form of depression can include all of the side effects of typical depression, although usually, the symptoms are not quite as severe.

However, symptoms can change from mild to moderate to more serious during the course of experiencing PDD. 

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

This disorder is a relatively new diagnosis and involves children who often and consistently exhibit explosive behaviors that do not match the situation at hand. In between tantrums, which could be verbal and/or aggressive and physical, they are often irritable or angry.

Symptoms are usually frequent and will last indefinitely without treatment.

Getting Help for Mood Disorders

Mood disorders can be seriously debilitating over time. Even if symptoms are not as severe, when they last for a long period of time, the quality of life can be greatly impacted. Some mood disorders can affect the safety of yourself or others, so being proactive about finding help for them can be life-changing.

Understanding mood disorders can help you and your teen get the help they need to heal. You can seek access to medical and therapeutic help for your teen to live a more healthy, balanced life.

When you can find a name for your mood disorders, you can learn more about them and find help to manage them. When your mental health is well-managed, you can be more successful in all that you do. Learn more about how to empower yourself with treatments and skills that allow you to become the superhero of mood disorders. 

If you are concerned that you may have a mood disorder, call Embark Behavioral Health at 1 (855) 809-0409 today. We can help you learn skills and coping mechanisms to complement any medical treatment for your mood disorder.

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Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of outpatient centers and residential programs offering premier mental health treatment for preteens, teens, and young adults. Dedicated to its big mission of reversing the trends of teen and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide by 2028, Embark offers a robust continuum of care with different levels of service and programming; has a deep legacy of over 25 years serving youths; works with families to adjust treatment in real time to improve results; treats the entire family using an evidence-supported approach; and offers the highest levels of quality care and safety standards. For more information about Embark or its treatment programs, including virtual services, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), therapeutic day treatment programs, also known as partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), residential treatment, and outdoor therapy, visit embarkbh.com.