How Common Are Mood Disorders?

Everyone feels sad, has low moods, or wants to be alone sometimes. These feelings are part of the human experience, and most people recover on their own without any intervention. But if these symptoms are common and affect daily life, you may be experiencing a mood disorder, which is more common than you might think.

What Are Mood Disorders?

If you have a mood disorder, your overall emotional wellness or mood is one-sided or inconsistent with what’s going on in your life, and can even interfere with everyday activities and responsibilities. You could be very sad, experience irritability or low moods (depressive symptoms), or you may go through long stretches of depression that alternate with bouts of excessive happiness (mania). It’s not uncommon for anxiety disorders to affect your mood and often co-occur with depression. 

The most common types of mood disorders include:

  • Major depression, with less interest in normal activities, sadness or hopelessness, and other symptoms over a two-week period
  • Dysthymia, a long-term, low-grade, unhappy, or irritable mood lasting for at least 2 years
  • Bipolar disorder, which is characterized by alternating bouts of depression and mania
  • Mood disorders caused by other health conditions, like cancer, injuries, infections, and long-term illnesses
  • Substance-induced mood disorder, with symptoms of depression triggered by the influence of medicine, drug or alcohol abuse, toxic exposure, or other kinds of treatment

The Rate of Mood Disorders

The percentage of mood disorders in America may seem low, but relative to other mental or physical illnesses they’re common. About 20% of the U.S. population say they have one depressive symptom in any month, and 12% two or more yearly. A decades’ old survey from 1992 uncovered rates of major depression reaching 5% within a previous 30-day period, and 17% lifetime. Bipolar disorder is less frequent, happening in about 1% of the overall population, but diagnosis could be overlooked because manic elation isn’t reported very often as an illness.

People with a mood disorder are commonly affected by mental illness where the primary identifier is a change in their overall mood or emotional state. But the rate of mood disorders is also related to other factors.

More women than men are affected by mood disorders, but the overall picture isn’t encouraging. According to 2001-2003 data from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, one survey revealed the following:

  • About 9.7% of U.S. adults “had any mood disorder in the past year.”
  • More women (11.6%) than men (7.7%) get a mood disorder.
  • Slightly more than 21% of U.S. adults exhibit symptoms of any mood disorder at some point in their lives.

But a 2021 Harris Mood Disorder Survey of 2,308 U.S. adults, as reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, revealed more worrisome data on the commonality of mood disorders.

  • The most common symptoms: changes in sleeping habits, tiredness and low energy (51%), feelings of excessive sadness or low moods (42%), and excessive worry or fear (39%).
  • 50% of survey respondents with a mood disorder said it had negative effects on personal relationships.
  • 61% said they were treated differently once others learned of their diagnosis. This also indicates the ongoing stigma of mental illness and how it can influence someone’s desire to get treatment for their illness. Perhaps, as a result, 78% of those surveyed said it’s frustrating attempting to locate the right treatment.
  • Three-quarters of survey respondents said that people don’t comprehend the difficulty of living with a mood disorder daily.
  • 37% of those with a mood disorder who responded to the survey said they have received government financial support, and 45% from family or friends.
  • Why don’t people get help? Being unsure of eligibility (48%), cost (41%), and unaware of how to access the needed service (39%).

There are many treatment options available to someone with a mood disorder.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If your moods or emotions have gotten out of hand and control your daily life, it may be time to see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and to learn about treatment options. Diagnosis includes:

  • A physical examination. The purpose is to uncover any underlying condition, illness, or injury which may be influencing your moods and to treat it if possible.
  • A psychiatric assessment, where your thoughts, feelings, and behavior are examined as potential triggers for your condition. You’ll also be asked about your personal and family history of mental illness and will be asked to fill out a self-assessment.
  • Comparing your symptoms to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Treatment may include antidepressants or other medicine, lifestyle changes, or ketamine therapy.

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