Mood disorder is different from harmless, benign mood swings. It is perfectly normal for a person to have mood swings that include happiness and sadness, joy and fright, silliness and thoughtful seriousness. But when a person’s mood either remains unchangeable in a chronic state, or varies wildly from the extremes, then it may be time to seek professional care. Because of frequent and improper use, the term “mood disorder” has become somewhat of a generic catch-all phrase when discussing moods and mental health. The fact is, the term mood disorder refers to two specific and different mental conditions. The term usually refers more specifically to extended depression and Bipolar Disorder, when the sufferer’s mood may swing from a depressed state to ecstatic or even maniacal.
Occasionally, people will refer to feeling sadness or disappointment as being “depressed.” Depression is known, in part, as being an ongoing, chronic change in a person’s mood and resulting behavior. That is not typical of normal sadness or the feelings associated with disappointment. They usually do not last a very long time. Excessive swings between the feelings of extreme happiness or euphoria, and then to the other extreme depression, describes Bipolar Disorder. It is the extremes that can cause a sufferer to act irresponsibly and even irrationally, possibly jeopardizing their safety as a result of the Bipolar Disorder. To the other extreme, a person in a depressive state for an extended period of time can leave a person in danger, as well. This is where suicides can occur.
Experiencing anxiety is different from having Bipolar Disorder. Generally speaking, anxiety is when the sufferer is feeling emotionally overwhelmed and fearful. The anxiety and fear can last for extended periods of time or only in certain situations. A feeling of loss of control may be experienced by the one feeling anxious, but that anxiety is not going to result in irrational extreme behavior as would be the case for a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder.
The person who feels as if they are not in control may fear becoming mentally ill, when in fact, it is that fear of becoming mentally ill that indicates they are not mentally ill at all. Those who are, in fact, mentally ill, take exception to the belief that they are. Call it mere semantics if you wish, but when the term mood disorder is used in place of the correct terminology such as anxiety or depression or Bipolar Disorder, and consequently an incorrect diagnosis is assigned, the risk of improper treatment exists.