Explaining Mood Disorders

Depression is the most studied disorder, because it affects so many people. As a result of thousands of studies, psychologists have been working to develop more effective ways to treat mood disorders.

What characterizes depression is negativity. Depressed people are sensitive to negative happenings, expect negative outcomes, and more often remember negative information. Depressed people also tend to be less active and feel unmotivated. In the depressed mood, we expect our grades to fall and our team to lose. Nearly half of depressed people also suffer from anxiety disorders or substance abuse.

Women More Vulnerable

Women are most vulnerable to disorders involving internalized states, such as depression, anxiety, sexual inhibition and loss of desire. While men’s disorders tend to be more external, such as alcohol abuse, antisocial conduct and impulsivity.

Teenage girls and younger women are nearly twice as vulnerable to depression (Kessler, 2001). Studies show that 36 percent of women entering college feel overwhelmed by their tasks, while 16 percent of young men do.

Depression in most people eventually abates and moods return to normal, but may return periodically.


Some type of stress is often the cause of depression. Events such as an illness or death, a job loss, a relationship crisis, an assault, or an accident are often followed by depression.

Depression is affecting more and more people with each generation and begins at a younger age. Today’s young adults and children are three times more likely as their grandparents to have recently suffered from depression.

Biology and Heredity

Depression can be explained biologically in many cases. It can involve biochemical imbalances as well as genetic influences. The risk of major depression and bipolar disorder dramatically increases if a parent or sibling has suffered from depression. It is not uncommon for serious depression to cross several generations.

Some people become depressed with no apparent reason, even when everything in their life is going well. Sometimes stress will cause a biological change and a resulting mood change. A stressful situation will cause negative thoughts, in turn causing a biological reaction, causing even more negative thoughts all feeding upon each other.

Vicious Cycle

Depressed people often view life through “dark glasses.” Their negativity influences everything about themselves, their situation, and their future. This leads to magnifying bad experiences and minimizing the good. Self-defeating attitudes and negativity feed depression’s vicious cycle.

Self-Esteem Key Factor

As we have noted, pre-existing pessimism is a recipe for depression, which can be brought about by stressful events, job loss, divorce, death, even accidents. Self-esteem also affects our mood, which amplifies negative feelings, which in turn triggers depression. A study of Indiana University basketball fans who watched their team win and lose games found that the students became depressed after a loss and elated after a win. Negative and stressful events and pessimistic attitudes can create a depressed state. Bad moods can feed upon themselves.

Change the Environment

On the brighter side, we can break the cycle of depression by changing our environment. By turning our attention outward, and by engaging in more pleasant activities and more competent behavior. Many people struggle through depression. Most regain their capacity to love, work and even succeed at the highest levels.

Dysthymic Disorder

Some mood disorders are long-lasting but relatively moderate problems. If a person is mildly depressed for at least 2 years, the problem is call Dysthymic Disorder. If depression alternates with periods when the person’s mood is cheerful, expansive, or irritable, the problem is called Cyclothymic Disorder. Even at this moderate level, mood disorders can be debilitating. However, major mood disorders are much more damaging.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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