About Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are illnesses that involve extreme changes in mood. Probably the most common conditions are depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For years, society failed to take these issues seriously, but now we acknowledge their importance and have a variety of treatments available to alleviate symptoms.

The most common indicators of depression are despondent or irritable mood most of the day and nearly every day for at least two weeks, or a significant decrease in motivation or pleasure derived from previously enjoyable activities. Additional symptoms include otherwise unexplained weight loss or gain, changes in sleep, loss of energy, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of self-harm. While the number and severity of symptoms vary across individuals, depression can affect every part of a person's life, including the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy regular life activities.

Do not confuse depression with the blues or normal feelings of sadness, grief, or disappointment that often occur following stressful major life events such as bereavement, loss of employment, or relationship problems. If these feelings persist beyond what seems to you to be a reasonable period of time, you may want to speak with a professional health care provider to find out if you are experiencing depression.

While it is normal to experience some level of anxiety, when it interferes with day-to-day activities, it’s time to consider the possibility that you may have an anxiety disorder. There are many types of anxiety disorders and related illnesses. Online tools that assess anxiety levels can be interesting but should not replace an in-person assessment by a trained clinician such as at the Mount Sinai Health System.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is triggered by a terrifying and often life-threatening event, such as military combat, a violent attack, a serious accident or illness, or a natural disaster. When this event-prompted anxiety interferes with normal functioning over an extended period of time, you may be suffering from PTSD. This condition can make it difficult for you to socialize, work, or function normally and you may experience symptoms such as flashbacks, irritability, overactive startle response, or hypervigilence. Signs of PTSD usually occur within three months of the traumatic event, although there can be a delayed onset, and many months or years can pass before symptoms appear.

Response to military-service related trauma is only one of the ways you can develop PTSD. You dont need to be an active duty soldier or veteran to receive a diagnosis of PTSD. 

Common treatments are talk therapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive psychotherapy) and medications (such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications). The type and severity of your condition determines which treatments are most appropriate. Often, combinations of different treatments are effective.

As a class of medication, antidepressants treat various kinds of mood and anxiety disorders, but they do not work equally well for all individuals. Mental health professionals can offer different alternative therapies in addition to medications or when prescriptions are not helpful.