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Is Anxiety a Mood Disorder? A Simple Answer

A common question often comes to people when deliberating about anxiety – Is anxiety a mood disorder, or does it come under some other category? Read on to find out the answer to this doubt ‘Is Anxiety A Mood Disorder?’

There has been an increasing amount of conversation around mental health in the past few years. The stigma is lowered (although we still have a long way to go), and people are trying their best to understand the nuances of mental health disorders. During these conversations, there are often doubts that pop up, such as ‘Is anxiety a mood disorder?’

Mental health disorders are one of the most common types of disorders. In the United States of America, almost 50% of the population will be diagnosed with mental health problems at one point or another in their lives. With this staggering number, it is important that the public understand mental disorders.

A black and white image of a woman suffering from Anxiety.
Photo By: Elīna Arāja/Pexels

The lack of knowledge and proper education surrounding the topic of mental disorders is one of the reasons why people might fail to differentiate between different mental health problems, or even mental health classes, and types of mood disorders. A mental health professional will always try to spread knowledge and information about these issues, but there is still a lot left for us to understand and many doubts that need clarification.

One such doubt concerning mental health disorders, particularly mood disorders: Is anxiety a mood disorder? To answer this question, it is first essential to understand the definition of the main components of the doubt, that is, of ‘anxiety’ and ‘mood disorder.’

1. Is Anxiety A Mood Disorder?

1.1. A Brief Difference between Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety itself is just a feeling experienced by people during stressful life changes, such as financial trouble, or even just during daily life events that bring about a certain modicum of tension. In these cases, anxiety is a temporary emotion, and after the situation has passed, the person’s normal anxiety levels are restored. It does not hinder a person’s normal growth.

Anxiety disorders are different; they refer to the long-lasting effect of anxiety that remains in the brain, can worsen feelings, and affect the quality of life. It can be described as a persistent worry. Still, even anxiety disorder is not a mood disorder.

1.2. Are Anxiety or Anxiety Disorders Linked to Mood Disorders

The reason behind this can be explained succinctly by saying this: anxiety and anxiety disorder can affect the mood or emotions of a person, but it is not directly linked with their mood.

Anxiety disorders play a major role in the development of negative feelings like losing hope, dread, worry, and more. However, mood disorders consist of conditions such as major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and mania. This is a major point of differentiation between anxiety disorder and mood disorder.

A close-up of a woman crying.
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1.3. Is There Any Link Between Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression

The reclassification of generalized anxiety disorder into the same mental health class as major depressive disorder has been considered in the past. Still, there are various reasons put forth against this. An article published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information outlines some of these points.

While both generalized anxiety disorder and major depression have similar genotypic and phenotypic levels, it has to be understood that reclassifying generalized anxiety disorder as a mood disorder may lead to various symptoms like worry being obscured or deemed insignificant in the long run. The features of generalized anxiety disorder are valid in their own right.

Moreover, although both generalized anxiety disorder and major depression have similarities with respect to their heritable characteristics, it has also been suggested that they can be distinguished based on environmental factors. There is an overlap between the two disorders due to their associations with negative affectivity. Still, the article tells us that through functional changes in the emotional responses, the temporal state between generalized anxiety disorder and major depression can be seen.

1.4. Mood Disorder, Anxiety, and Anxiety Disorder Are Separate

People with mood disorders are likely to have anxiety disorders too. Nevertheless, the answer to, whether anxiety is a mood disorder or not, remains the same: no. Anxiety is not a mood disorder, nor is anxiety disorder a mood disorder. Anxiety disorders are a mental health class of their own.

Now that we have got the main question out of the way, let us understand more about mood disorders.

2. What Are Mood Disorders?

The second part of understanding the answer to the question, ‘Is anxiety a mood disorder?’ is to understand the meaning of mood disorders.

Mood disorders are mental illnesses that affect a person’s emotional well-being and normal feelings. The mood of a person with a mood disorder is often at odds with the situation and is distorted or inconsistent. It interrupts the normal livelihood of a person and their functioning.

Mood disorders are a mental health class usually utilized by a mental health professional to categorize depressive disorders and bipolar disorder. A mood disorder is characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood and energy levels. A person with a mood disorder may experience bouts of depression and feel sad and empty or may experience mania, which is excessive happiness.

Now for the question of the hour: Is anxiety a mood disorder?

2.1. Types of Mood Disorders

2.1.1. Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that is quite common. When a person is almost constantly in a depressed mood with no apparent cause, and these common symptoms of ongoing sadness last for longer than two weeks, a patient can be correctly diagnosed with a mood disorder known as major or clinical depression.

A closed-up view of the smudged kajal of a crying woman.
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The common symptoms include having reduced interest in the activities a person usually partakes in and mood feeling hopeless. There are various forms of depression, too, with varying or the same symptoms:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Postpartum/peripartum depression
  • Psychotic depression
  • Substance-induced mood disorder or depression

2.1.2. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive disorder. It is characterized by alternating extreme happiness (mania) and depression. During the period of depression, a person will feel low, while during the manic episode, they may feel elated and have bouts of energy.

There are four main types of bipolar disorders:

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymia, also known as cyclothymia disorder
  • Unspecified bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder and major depression are the two main types of mood disorders, but apart from these, there are also a few others, some of which are listed below.

  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder: periods of extreme rage for no apparent reason
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: occurs before the advent of the menstrual period; common symptoms include anger, annoyance, irritable mood, and stress.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: Characterized by severe and frequent temper outbursts in children that do not match their age or development stage.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: A disorder with alternating emotions that are less extreme than bipolar disorder.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: Also known as dysthymia, a long-term form of depression.
A frustrated man aggressively banging his fist on the table.
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2.2. What Are the Causes of Mood Disorders?

Through considerable research, scientists have figured out a number of factors that may be connected with the cause of mood disorders. These include biological, genetic, and even environmental factors. The factors may vary according to what the mood disorder is.

Some of the factors are:

  • Family history of mood disorders or other mental illnesses
  • Stressful life changes or trauma
  • Usage of some medicine
  • The structure of the brain, or imbalance of brain chemicals associated with mood disorders
  • Physical diseases

The factors may also depend on a particular case; one factor may not apply to another, and so on. Some groups of people are more at risk of mood disorders than others.

There is an increased chance of children with parents who have mood disorders experiencing the same symptoms and, consequently, receiving the same diagnosis. Moreover, people related to bipolar disorder have a higher chance of developing depression, or those related to depression have a higher chance of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It is also found that the risk of depression in women is almost twice as high as that in men.

2.3. Symptoms of Mood Disorders

The symptoms of mood disorders may be dependent on the age of the patient, as well as the mood disorder in question. For example, some signs of depression are:

  • Lack of energy
  • A feeling of hopelessness or feeling unworthy
  • Appetite loss/overeating or binge eating
  • A sudden loss or gain in weight
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Suicide ideation

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • Having high amounts of energy
  • An elated feeling
  • Talking and moving rapidly
  • Risky behavior patterns
  • Feeling uneasy or on edge

In general, mood disorders are accompanied by various symptoms that can also be disinterested in activities they used to enjoy (including sex), relationship problems, and trouble, or difficulty concentrating.

2.4. How Are Mood Disorders Diagnosed?

It is usually a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional who diagnoses mood disorders. A physician or your doctor may conduct a basic routine check-up and examination to rule out the possibility of the symptoms occurring due to some causes like vitamin deficiency.

When the psychologist or psychiatrist enters the picture, they will most likely interview you and ask you questions regarding your symptoms and behavior patterns. The doctor may also inquire about family illnesses and your medical history and health condition. A psychiatric evaluation will take place, and they will analyze the other symptoms before diagnosing mood disorders.

2.5. How Are Mood Disorders Treated?

If you suspect you may have a mood disorder, then it is vital to get yourself help as soon as possible. It is not uncommon for the brain to develop another mood disorder or mental illness after one has already been developed.

The treatment process with reference to mood disorders depends on the type of mood disorder and the symptoms displayed. Usually, it includes therapy sessions combined with medication.

2.5.1. Medication Antidepressants

These are prescribed to treat depression as well as depressive episodes. It needs to be taken in the prescribed manner for 4-6 weeks before noticeable effects. Mood Stabilizing Medication

Mood stabilizers assist in the regulation of mood swings and unusual brain activity. Antipsychotics

Usually prescribed to people with mania or mixed episodes.

2.5.2. Psychotherapy

These are counseling sessions that benefit people with mood disorders. The topics discussed during the therapy sessions can range from changing a person’s view of themselves to improving relationship skills and avoiding stress factors. The various types of therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), problem-solving therapy, and interpersonal therapy.

2.5.3. Brain Stimulation Therapy

These are said to treat mood disorders by initiating changes in the brain chemicals that are interrelated with symptoms of mood disorders like bipolar disorders and depressive disorders.

They include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Usually performed on patients with severe cases of depression or bipolar disorders.
  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: On particular brain nerve cells, a metallic coil is utilized to apply short electromagnetic pulses.

Other treatments range from family therapy to light therapy (more common for patients with SAD), and more. It is important for the friends and family of the patient to play a vital supportive role during their treatment process.

Now, let us delve a little deeper into what anxiety and anxiety disorders are.

3. What Are Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder?

The definition of anxiety is sometimes wrongly conveyed by people. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the term ‘anxiety’ refers to the anticipation of a problem that may present itself in the future. It is most commonly associated with behaviors of avoidance, as well as tension in the muscles of the body. It can also be defined as an emotion that goes hand in hand with worrying thoughts, bodily changes, and tension.

Put very simply, anxiety by itself is a feeling. Almost everyone experiences it at some point in their life events. In normal amounts, it is helpful as it allows us to face danger, triggers the fight or flight response of the body, and motivates us to perform better. The fact that normal amounts of anxiety can help us perform better is widely agreed upon, as long as it does not hinder our usual life events.

Of course, there is another side of anxiety, known as anxiety disorders. This is where it turns into mental health disorders. As we have read before, anxiety disorders are different; they refer to the long-lasting effects of anxiety. Let’s know more about this.

3.1. Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are quite a few subsections of anxiety disorders that have been recognized. They include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Phobias or fear relating to specific elements, for example, agoraphobia
  • PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder
  • Health condition related anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder

3.2. Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders have a similar treatment process to mood disorders. Therapists assist patients in dealing with factors that can trigger symptoms and taking control of them. Anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed alongside counseling and therapy.

4. Co-occurring Disorders

As mentioned before, it is common for people with a mood disorder to develop an anxiety disorder or vice versa. This is what doctors refer to as co-occurring disorders. The co-occurring disorder that occurs most commonly is depression.

According to The Family Enhancement Centre, Mood disorders are considered the main cause of anxiety. The symptoms of depression can worsen feelings of anxiety, and on the other hand, extreme anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can lead to depression.

5. To Conclude

A woman lying on a bed with blue light in the background and going through a tough time.
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A large number of people’s lives are adversely affected by mood disorders and anxiety disorders. However, if patients get an early diagnosis and are correctly diagnosed, an appropriate treatment plan can be formulated, which will help them. Therefore, it is essential for you to talk to someone if you are experiencing the symptoms of these mental disorders. It is always better and beneficial for everyone involved to seek help sooner rather than later.

Anxiety disorders and mood disorders are the most common mental illnesses. Let us look at the numbers for a minute. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 18% of adults are diagnosed with or suffer from anxiety disorders, whereas 8% suffer from mood disorders. Forbes reported that almost half of Americans did not seek professional assistance to deal with their mental health.

Mental illnesses will not go away by themselves. In fact, it is far more likely that their severity will increase, as will its impact on a person’s life. The mental aspect of these illnesses can also be accompanied by frequent physical complaints, which will increase the negative effects on a person’s normal growth.

At this point, there is no way to prevent anxiety and mood disorders. That does not mean that everyone who develops mental health disorders will not live a quality life. Treatment can greatly reduce the severity of the disorder. Seek help at once if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or think about harming yourself or others.

It is always, always better to seek help. Talk to a loved one, or someone you trust, be it friends, family, significant other, or your doctor.

Next time you have a conversation with someone on the topic of whether is anxiety a mood disorder, remember these points. We hope this article answers your doubts thoroughly. Let us know in the comments.

If you liked this article, make sure you check out How To Deal With Social Anxiety. Best 12 Ways To Deal With It.


1. Why is anxiety, not a mood disorder?

Anxiety affects one’s mood but is not directly linked to mood. Therefore, anxiety can’t be a mood disorder.

2. What kind of disorder is anxiety?

Anxiety is a temporary mental health condition that occurs during stressful times. However, it is not an anxiety disorder.


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