Depression: Mental Disorder or Mood Disorder?

Mood disorders are a category of mental illness that affects the mood. Probably one of the most well-known mood disorders is a bipolar disorder (manic depression), which is most commonly described as a disorder where an individual as depressed episodes and manic episodes.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get the help they need because of the misunderstanding surrounding the illnesses or the fear associated with stigma. Depression is a mental illness, but can manifest itself almost as a separate mood disorder. It’s important to understand yourself and your own changes in mood to be able to get your depression treated. In this article, we will go through the different ways depression can manifest itself in different people and how this can affect your mood.

What exactly is depression?

Most people have felt sad or depressed at times; it’s a normal part of life. But when the feeling of intense sadness, emptiness, loss of appetite and loss of energy hold on for days or weeks on end, we’re talking about depression. It’s important to remember that depression is much more than feeling sad. Depression is a disease that can be medically treated.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • A depressed mood
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Recurring thoughts of death and suicide
  • A sense of restlessness
  • Feeling like the world is moving much faster than them
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain

Depression and anxiety

Many people who suffer from depression also suffer from a form of anxiety. People who already have an anxiety disorder: social anxiety, generalised anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other form of anxiety often live a very stressful and agitated life, which can then result in depression.

But it can also happen the other way around. Depression can take a huge toll on you and make you feel very isolated. This isolation can also result in anxiety, because someone is simply not used to being out and about anymore, for example.

Depression as a mood disorder

People who suffer from specific types of depression – such as manic depression (bipolar disorder) or dysthymia will know that depression can manifest itself in countless ways. While depression is known for being a mental illness that makes you feel mostly sad, people with depression can also experience strong mood swings and periods of (hypo)mania while still feeling depressed at the same time.

Depressive disorders and major depressive disorder differ in severity, length and symptoms. Minor depression is defined by a period of at least two weeks of depression. Minor depressive episodes do not fully meet the criteria for major depression but can develop into major depression if left untreated. People with minor depression can often function normally in society and have long periods of ‘feeling normal’ between their depressive episodes.

Depression, substance abuse and mood swings

People who have mental illness are much more likely to develop a substance abuse problem, which of course, can affect the mood in its own. It is not clear which most commonly develops first: the depression, which causes the substance abuse problem, or the substance abuse problem, which causes the depression. However, it’s clear that mental illness can trigger substance abuse. People with bipolar disorder are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem.

Depression and you

The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s depression is different. Your depression might manifest itself as a mood disorder, while others might have a very stable yet negative mood. If you aren’t sure about your own feelings, a mood diary can be a good solution. Take the time to reflect on your moods every single day, and also what has caused that mood. When you decide to get professional help, the mood diary can be a good resource.

Other resources:

Practice: Yoga for Depression

Read: All About Bipolar Disorder

Music: Healing music

Watch: Depressive and Bipolar Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #30


Dalindcy is a self-help blogger, YouTuber and freelance journalist residing in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Her biggest goal is to help people become the best version of themselves, and she thinks the internet is a great tool to help her do that. She loves to read books, run long distances and chat with strangers.

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