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It is natural to have fluctuating emotions and moods. Emotions are a sign that our human needs are either being met or not being met. However, diagnosed mood disorders occur when persistent, distorted moods interfere with a person’s ability to function normally. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, mood disorders are caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals and can sometimes be triggered by stressful life events. Hopkins identifies four main types of mood disorders: 

  • Dysthymia. This is a chronic, low-grade, depressed, or irritable mood that lasts for at least 2 years.
  • Bipolar disorder. This is a condition in which a person has periods of depression alternating with periods of mania or elevated mood.
  • Mood disorder related to another health condition. Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic illnesses) can trigger symptoms of depression.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder. Symptoms of depression are due to the effects of medicine, drug abuse, alcoholism, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment.

Mood disorders do not always manifest with dramatic symptoms, which means they may be tricky to identify and maybe more common than you think. 

Cyclothymia, also known as a cyclothymic disorder, is a mood disorder with symptoms that are not intense enough to be labeled a major depressive or manic episode. It has been described as a milder and more chronic form of bipolar disorder. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cyclothymia symptoms alternate between emotional highs and lows…The unpredictable nature of your mood shifts may significantly disrupt your life because you never know how you’re going to feel.”

Even mild mood disorder symptoms have the ability to affect every-day functioning. If you suspect you or a loved one has a mood disorder, it is important to consult a medical professional.