Overview Of Mood And Anxiety Mental Disorders And Their Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

A wide variety of mental health conditions can affect people and interfere with relationships, emotions, and overall well-being. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly one in five adults experiences some form of mental illness each year. Without a diagnosis, it can be difficult to know where to start. Read on for an overview of mood and anxiety mental disorders and their symptoms. This information may help you identify signs you or a loved one may be experiencing so you have a framework for discussion withyour mental healthcare provider. 

There are certain behaviors or signs that may indicate a need to seek help for a potential mental health condition. While one or more of these instances do not necessarily mean that someone has a diagnosable mental heatlh condition, they could indicate that the person is experiencing challenges and may not be coping in healthy ways.

  • Significant changes to personality, sleeping, or eating patterns
  • Inability to cope with problems or perform daily activities
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, disconnection, or apathy
  • Withdrawal from usual activities and social contact
  • Substance misuse
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Excessive anger or violent behavior
  • Thoughts or statements about suicide or violence

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.

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Are you worried you may have a mental health condition?

Mood disorders

In general, mood disorders affect your emotional state or mood by distorting what you feel. According to the Mayo Clinic, these distortions can make your mood inconsistent with your circumstances. Mood disorders can cause substantial interference with your ability to function in various ways. 

Major depressive disorder

Depression can be a serious mood disorder that may touch every part of your life, often leading to mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. Neurotic disorders like depression are generally not a weakness or character flaw, but rather, an imbalance in your brain chemistry that can require treatment. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in nearly all activities; anhedonia
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns
  • Decreased energy levels, feeling tired and worn down daily
  • Feelings of worthlessness and undue guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation (Note: This requires emergency treatment.)

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline immediately by visiting their website or texting/calling 988. Free support is available 24/7.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder was formerly known as manic depression. This mental illness can cause abnormal shifts in mood, energy, concentration, and the ability to function in daily life. People with bipolar disorder typically experience periods of mania with excessive energy and irritability, cycling with longer phases of sadness and depression. 

Mania and hypomania 

  • Unusually upbeat mood and excessive energy levels
  • Feelings of euphoria and exaggerated self-confidence
  • Decreased need or ability to sleep
  • Poor judgment, racing thoughts, and easy distraction

Depressive episodes

  • See symptoms of “major depressive disorder”
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or irritability
  • Noticeable loss of interest in nearly all activities
  • Slowed or restless behavior
  • Sleeping too much or not enough

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression typically categorized by mood shifts beginning and ending with the change of the seasons. 

  • Winter-Pattern SAD: Oversleeping, overeating (particularly carbohydrates), weight gain, social withdrawal
  • Summer-Pattern SAD: Insomnia, poor appetite and weight loss, restlessness, agitation, anxiety, and violent behavior

Persistent depressive disorder

Some people experience chronic, low-level depression known as persistent depressive disorder (formerly dysthymic disorder). While typically not as severe as major depressive disorder, the symptoms may last longer. This condition usually requires a combination of depressive symptoms lasting two years or longer. 

Postpartum depression disorder (PPD)

After childbirth, some parents experience difficulties with their emotional state. Postpartum depression is believed to be triggered by the extensive hormone shifts related to childbirth. PPD occurs after roughly 15% of births. While most people think of PPD as something only mothers go through, all parents may experience this mental health condition. 

  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Overwhelming sadness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Disturbing thoughts

Other mood disorders

  • Cyclothymic disorder: Emotional cycling less extreme than bipolar disorder 
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Mood shifts and irritability during the premenstrual stage of the menstrual cycle; more severe than PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder: Chronic, severe, and persistent irritability in children 
  • Depression due to medical illness: Depression directly related to the effects of another medical condition 
  • Depression induced by substance use or medication: Depression developing soon after or related to substance use or withdrawal 
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Anxiety disorders

While many experience temporary worry or fear about various issues like health, family problems, or finances, those worries don’t typically linger for an extended period or substantially impact your life. You may have an anxiety disorder if your concerns or fears become pervasive and persistent, affecting your daily life, mental or emotional state, and behaviors. 

Generalized anxiety disorder

With generalized anxiety disorder, people may experience persistent feelings of dread or anxiety, often interfering with daily life functioning. 

  • Feelings of restlessness, irritability, or being on-edge
  • Easily becoming fatigued
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pain
  • Excessive worrying and difficulty relaxing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Easily startled

Panic disorder

People living with panic disorder may experience sudden periods of overwhelming fear and anxiety lasting for several minutes. These panic attacks may occur without warning or apparent trigger, further increasing worry levels. 

  • Sudden, repeated panic attacks
  • Feeling out of control, fearing death, or feeling a sense of impending doom during an attack
  • Intense worry about the next panic attack
  • Fear or avoidance of places where previous panic attacks occurred
  • Physical symptoms, like a racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing trouble, weakness, dizziness, tingling or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, or nausea

Social anxiety disorder

Many people have social anxiety disorder, which is usually characterized by the persistent fear of social situations where they may be exposed to unfamiliar people or social scrutiny. People with this type of anxiety tend to worry that they will do or say something embarrassing.

  • Blushing, trembling, racing heart, sweating, or stomachaches
  • Excessive worry over behavior leading to humiliation
  • Rigid body posture and using a nearly inaudible voice
  • Trouble making eye contact or being comfortable around new people
  • Extreme self-consciousness or worry about being judged

Phobia-related disorders

Many people have intense fear or aversion to specific situations or objects, which is called a phobia-related disorder. Phobias are frequently due to irrational fears or something that poses little or no risk of real danger. However, they may elicit extreme reactions when a person encounters the source of their anxiety. 

  • Disproportionate fear or excessive worry about encountering the subject of the phobia
  • Actively taking steps to avoid the feared situation or object
  • Immediate and intense anxiety when encountering the subject of the phobia
  • Simple phobias: Intense fear of things like flying, heights, specific animals, needles, blood, public speaking, etc. 
  • Agoraphobia: fear of open spaces or claustrophobia: fear of enclosed spaces

Separation anxiety disorder

People living with separation anxiety disorder may experience intense anxiety upon separation from the people with whom they’ve formed emotional attachments, often demonstrating extreme and unfounded fear that something terrible will happen while they are separated. 

  • Intense fear and anxiety when separated from people to whom you’ve formed attachments
  • Nightmares about being separated from attachment figures
  • Physical anxiety symptoms when separated from attachment figures
  • Avoiding separation from attachment figures and time alone

How therapy can help treat mental health conditions

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Are you worried you may have a mental health condition?

Many people have built successful relationships with licensed therapists online through virtual therapy providers. Working with a therapist can help you identify and correct harmful thoughts and behaviors, develop healthy habits and coping skills, learn better communication methods, and provide professional support and guidance as you improve your mental health. With flexible appointment formats through phone, video call, or online chat, teletherapy can be used to treat a vast array of mental health conditions from the comfort of your own home—often with substantially lower costs and reduced wait times.  

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), many people have found online therapy to be a practical, affordable, and convenient alternative to face-to-face treatment in the traditional office setting. The APA suggests online therapy makes treatment available to many people, particularly in rural areas, who otherwise could not reach a licensed therapist. As this study explains, there’s generally no difference in efficacy between online and in-person therapy.

Takeaway

Mental health can be a crucial part of overall well-being. The information outlined in this article may make it easier to recognize the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental health condition in yourself or a loved one and seek help from your healthcare provider. Online therapy can be an effective source for getting the professional help you're seeking.

Finding mental health support can be challenging

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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