Mood disorders


Mood is a state of mind predominated by a specific emotion, such as anger, sadness or joy. Emotions can be pleasant or unpleasant, and sometimes painful. We can usually control them.

People with a mood disorder experience negative emotions more intensely and for a longer period than others. They may have a difficult time controlling their emotions, which in turn affects their mental and physical health, as well as influencing their behaviour.

People with a mood disorder have a hard time fulfilling their professional, family and social obligations.

The main types of mood disorders

The most common types of mood disorders are the following:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dysthymia: A milder form of depression characterized by less intense sadness and symptoms lighter than depression. To be associated with dysthymia, these symptoms must continually be present for a period of at least 2 years.  

Signs and symptoms

People suffering from a mood disorder may experience various physical and psychological discomforts of varying degree. Some signs and symptoms are specific to bipolar disorder. To learn more, read Bipolar disorder.

Physical signs and symptoms

The most frequent physical signs and symptoms are the following:

  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Sleep problems; too much sleep or not enough
  • Decrease or increase in appetite, which can lead to weight loss or gain
  • Neglected personal hygiene

Psychological symptoms

The most frequent psychological signs and symptoms in people with a mood disorder are the following:

  • Depressed mood and great distress
  • Significant loss of interest in activities that normally procure pleasure
  • Suicidal thoughts

When to consult

Do not wait until you are no longer able to function before consulting. If you have signs and symptoms, there are mental health organizations and associations that can provide information and offer help and support. Read the Help and resources section to find out what resources are available.

See your family doctor or another health professional if:

  • You are experiencing distress
  • Your symptoms prevent you from functioning normally
  • You have difficulty accomplishing your family, professional or social responsibilities

A health professional can assess if you are suffering from a mood disorder or experiencing another health problem with similar symptoms. To properly evaluate your condition, it might be necessary to conduct a physical exam or laboratory tests. You will be offered a treatment plan that is adapted to your needs.

If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety or that of people around you, read Preventing suicide. You will find further information on available help and resources.


Mood disorders can be treated with recognized treatments. Treatment allows people suffering from mood disorders to regain control of their lives and daily activities. The earlier you seek help, the better your chances of recovery.

In most cases, mood disorders can be healed through psychotherapy, with medication, or a combination of the two.

Psychotherapy sessions

Experts generally recommend cognitive behavioural therapy to heal mood disorders. This form of psychotherapy aims to change a person’s thoughts and problematic behaviour and replace them with thoughts and responses that are appropriate to reality.

Other therapies are also available depending on the type of mood disorder and on the patient’s needs.

Medication for mood disorders

Different medications can be used to heal mood disorders, most particularly antidepressants and mood stabilizers.

Effects of antidepressants and mood stabilizers

Mood stabilizers and antidepressants are drugs that restore the brain’s chemical balance. They decrease the intensity of physical symptoms and help with:

  • Emotions
  • Memory
  • Concentration

Recommendations regarding medication

If your doctor prescribes medication, it is important that you follow the instructions carefully.

You must also be patient in waiting for results. It can take up to 4 to 8 weeks before the medication produces maximum results.

Even if you feel better, you must continue the treatment as prescribed in order to avoid the reoccurrence of symptoms.

If you experience undesirable side effects, discuss them with your pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible. If necessary, your medication could be adjusted or other medication may be recommended.


People suffering from a mood disorder can also experience other problems, including:

Protection and prevention

Mood disorders are not always preventable, but if you have symptoms associated with them, you should act immediately. The tips for maintaining good mental health will help you change certain lifestyle habits. These changes will help improve your health and reduce the factors that worsen or influence your symptoms.

Risk factors

Mood disorders do not have a single cause. A combination of many factors lead to mood disorders. Factors may include the following:

  • Heredity: Other family members have the illness or have suffered from it in the past
  • Previous episode of depression, which increases the chance of a relapse
  • Alcohol and drug abuse or dependence
  • Presence of stress factors in a person's life. These factors can be related to family, social or professional environment
  • Changes in the balance of certain neurotransmitters or hormones
  • Having certain other illnesses, such as:
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Cancer
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Arthritis
    • Lung disease
    • Other chronic diseases

People at risk

Mood disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, social status, education, nationality or ethnic origin.

Special conditions


People with a mood disorder are sometimes victims of their own prejudices and those of society. These prejudices discourage people from seeking help or continuing their treatment. To learn more about prejudices and how to fight them, read Fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Help and resources

Information and support resources

Resources are available for help and to obtain more information about mood disorders:

You can also consult the Mental Illness page for more available resources.

Resources for care and services

To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom you feel comfortable, contact one of the following resources:

Last update: October 29, 2018


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