Understanding Mood Disorders on a Spectrum

That Psych Nerd

Exploring mood disorders and the mood spectrum

Note: the contents of this article are not meant to treat or cure any disorder. Nor is the information listed here enough to replace mental health treatment from a licensed mental health professional.

Currently, 1 in every 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental health disorder. That could be your sister, brother, cousin, or neighbor — anyone can have a mental health disorder.

There is a myth that we can simply control our feelings (and it’s supposedly as easy as that!). It’s often thought that depression isn’t real or we possess the ability to ‘snap out of it.’

It’s as if we can flip a switch and turn our symptoms on and off.

If you don’t want to feel anxious, don’t feel anxious.

If you don’t want to feel depressed, don’t feel depressed.

With that logic, it would be like telling someone with knee pain to not feel the pain. But mood disorders are so much deeper than we feel; they can wreak havoc on someone’s life.

Presently, there are about 5% diagnosed with depression globally. While there are about 7.5% of people who have experienced mania. It’s essential to keep in mind that these stats are based on people who have been diagnosed.

Mood disorders can actually be explained on a spectrum. There are two types of moods on the spectrum that are considered extremes:

Depression and Mania.

There aren’t any levels or stages that someone enters into, though. Instead, there’s a degree of severity to depression and mania — helping to understand how mental health varies greatly.

Instead, it is a helpful tool for understanding how mania and depression can look.

The mood spectrum model is never used as a diagnostic tool (or away to diagnose someone with a mental health disorder). Instead, the mood spectrum visually represents how mood disorders will vary.

I found the mood spectrum model extremely valuable when learning about psychiatric disorders. Seeing the mood on a spectrum can help us understand the different variations of symptoms to which depression or mania can present or show themselves through someone’s behavior.

It’s important to understand that someone may exist on the mood spectrum at any level, even without having a complete mental health diagnosis or disorder.

Understanding mood disorders

Mood disorders are a category of mental health disorders; every type of mental health disorder is categorized. Mood disorders cover mental health disorders ranging from depression to bipolar.

Bipolar is when someone exhibits mood swings from depression and mania. Although someone with bipolar experiences depressive and manic symptoms, they won’t experience them simultaneously.

Though depression and mania may be opposites on the mood spectrum, both disorders can take a severe toll on someone’s quality of life.

Within bipolar and depression lies various subtypes or variations that can occur from one person to the next. Depression or an episode of mania will never look the same for two people.

There isn’t just a single type of depression or mania that someone can experience. One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t exist.

Through my studies in psychology as a graduate student, I have learned that every disorder will look differently from one person to the next. No two people will experience identical symptoms — each person’s mental health is unique.

Much like any other disorder, there will be variations in how the disorder presents — mental health disorders are not exempt from this.

There is certainly more than one type of depression or mania — meaning there is a range of symptoms people can experience that you may not have known could happen.



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MS in Psychology | Mom of three cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind


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