According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 9.7% of adults in the US had a mood disorder in the past year, and an estimated 21.4% will experience a mood disorder at some time in their lives. But what are mood disorders, and what are the best treatment approaches? Read on for the answers to these questions and more. 


What is a mood disorder?

A mood disorder is a mental health problem characterized by intense emotional disturbances that last for two weeks or longer. These amplified and prolonged periods of emotional intensity can involve intense sadness (depression), intense elation (mania), or both, and can significantly disrupt a person’s ability to function in their daily lives. Depressive disorders are those characterized by periods of depression, and bipolar disorders are those characterized by a combination of mania and depression. Common mood disorders include: 


Mood disorders are treatable medical conditions. They are diagnosed through physical examination and mental health evaluation. 


What causes mood disorders?

Mood disorders are complex mental health issues thought to be caused by a combination of psychological, genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Brain structure may also play a role in some mood disorders. Risk factors for developing a mood disorder include: 

  • Genetics and family history 
  • Traumatic life events 
  • Excessive stress
  • Physical illness
  • Certain medications
  • Alcohol or drug abuse


When left untreated, mood disorders are associated with a number of other health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk of hospitalization and suicide. 


Mood disorders treatment options


Treatment approaches for mood disorders vary by individual. There is no one-size-fits-all, but most people who suffer from mood disorders find relief from their symptoms through a combination of medication and psychotherapy. 



  • Medication for mood disorders


The type of medication used in the treatment of mood disorders depends on the individual. Two people with the same disorder may not respond to the same medication. Some people need to try a number of different medications before they find one that works for them.  Some common medications used to treat depressive or bipolar disorders include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.


Psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy,” has proven beneficial in the treatment of mood disorders. It cannot make the mood disorder go away, but it can help patients manage their symptoms, alleviate stress, identify triggers, and address daily challenges in healthy ways. Psychotherapy can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. And just like medication, there is no one-size-fits-all therapy for mood disorders. Depending on the patient’s needs and preferences, therapy treatment may involve:


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients to identify and change unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. CBT can provide effective coping techniques to manage emotions and stress and prevent behaviors that lead to relapse of mood disorder symptoms. 
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) provides patients with strategies to resolve problems in personal relationships, life transitions, and daily interactions with others. IPT aims to change relationship patterns that exacerbate mood disorder symptoms. 
  • Problem-solving therapy (PST) provides patients with a step-by-step process for identifying problems, generating realistic solutions, and developing and implementing a clear plan of action for solving concrete problems as they arise in daily life. 


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for mood disorders

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive treatment that involves sending mild magnetic pulses into the brain to bring it back to normal levels of activity. Studies have shown that TMS therapy is effective in the treatment of major depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar depression.  


Additional therapies for mood disorders

There are a number of other therapies and treatments that can be used in combination with medication and psychotherapy to help people with mood disorders manage their symptoms and live healthy, productive lives. These may include play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, animal assisted therapy, and more. Lifestyle changes, including meditation and relaxation practices, physical exercise, and nutritional approaches may also be beneficial. 


Looking for mood disorder treatment? Pacific Health Systems can help. 


At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, we offer comprehensive, compassionate care and treatment for a range of mental health conditions, including mood disorders. Through a continuum of behavioral health services and primary care services, we are committed to treating people of all ages. Our specialties include: psychiatry, psychology, advanced depression, non-opiate pain treatment, chemical dependency, and more. For more information on how we treat mood disorders and other mental health concerns, please give us a call at 619-267-9257 today.