Almost everyone experiences at least brief periods of sadness, feeling “down”, or being energetic and upbeat at various points in his/her lifetime. That’s just part of being human. However, there’s a significant portion of the population that has disturbances in their mood that are not considered normal. Individuals in this group have what is clinically referred to as a “mood disorder”.

While many people use the term “mood” to simply refer to their feelings at any given moment (e.g. “I’m in a happy mood”), mental health professionals use it a bit differently. In clinical settings, it is used to describe a persistent emotional state that affects how the person sees the world.

Mood disorders are characterized by a significant disturbance in a person’s persistent emotional state or mood. The two primary types of moods are depression and mania. Thus, most mood disorders fall under the broad categories of depressive disorders and bipolar disorders (formerly known as “manic depressive” disorders).

Most individuals with a bipolar mood disorder experience episodes of depression as well as manic (or hypomanic) episodes. The term “bipolar” refers to these fluctuations in mood from one “pole” to the other.

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