Anxiety & Mood Disorders: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Reviewed by Dr. Theresa Bautista, OTD, OTR

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anxiety and mood disorders
Mood and anxiety disorders significantly impact a person's daily life. Photo: Shutterstock

Anxiety and mood disorders[1] are two of the most common mental health disorders in the world. According to a recent study, more than 15% of adults are affected by these disorders on a global scale. Anxiety and mood disorders manifest as various psychological challenges that can significantly affect your emotional well-being and overall mental state.

Although there may be an overlap in symptoms between anxiety and mood disorders, it’s important to recognize that these two categories of mental health conditions are essentially different from one another.

Is Anxiety A Mood Disorder?

No. Anxiety is often mistaken as a mood disorder, but it is a complex condition that affects individuals differently. Anxiety can result in mood changes but it is not necessarily classified as a mood disorder.

As a matter of fact, anxiety has a dedicated section in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) together with stress-related disorders. While there can be some symptom overlap, it is important to note that mood disorders and anxiety are fundamentally distinct from one another.

What Are Mood And Anxiety Disorders?

Mood disorder[2] is a common mental health condition affecting millions worldwide. Also known as affective disorders, mood disorders are characterized by persistent and severe changes in emotions. Some examples are major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia.[3]

Anxiety disorders,[4] on the other hand, are characterized by excessive worry and fear that can interfere with daily activities. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and social phobia.

People with mood and anxiety disorders may experience similar symptoms including restlessness, fatigue, frequent physical complaints, interruption in sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, agitation, and isolation.
However, anxiety is not considered a mood disorder. They may co-exist with one another but there is a separate category for “anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and trauma- and stressor-related disorders[5] in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

Symptoms Of Mood And Anxiety Disorders

Mood and anxiety disorders come with symptoms that sometimes overlap. The symptoms can vary depending on the specific disorder and the individual. Some common anxiety and mood disorder symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty.
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
  • Changes in appetite and weight.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Fatigue or low energy levels.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Restlessness or irritability.
  • Excessive worry or fear.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Frequent physical complaints.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

If you experience these symptoms, reach out to a mental health professional for further evaluation. 

Causes – Anxiety And Mood Disorders

Mood and anxiety disorders can be influenced by genetic factors, the environment, brain chemistry, hormonal changes, medical conditions, and substance abuse. Understanding the causes of mood and anxiety disorders can help you develop an appropriate care plan to better manage the different symptoms.


Mood disorders have been found to have a genetic component.[6] Studies have shown that individuals with a family history of a mood disorder are more likely to develop these conditions. Knowing your medical history may help you understand your level of susceptibility to developing a mood disorder.

Environmental Factors

While genetics may play a role in the development of mood disorders, it is important to note that environmental factors contribute to the onset and severity of these conditions. Factors such as childhood trauma and substance abuse can contribute to developing mood disorders, even in individuals without a genetic predisposition.

Traumatic life events,[7] such as abuse, neglect, stressful life changes, or the death of a loved one, can trigger mood disorders and increase the risk of developing clinical depression or severe anxiety. Chronic stress from work, relationships, or financial difficulties can also result in a mood disorder.

Brain Chemistry

The chemicals in our brain, called neurotransmitters, play a crucial role in regulating our mood. A mood disorder can occur when there is an imbalance in the levels of these chemicals. For example, people with major depression often have lower serotonin and dopamine levels, which regulate mood, pleasure, and motivation.

Hormonal Changes

Mood disorders such as depression can be affected by hormonal changes in the body. Hormones are chemical messengers responsible for regulating various bodily functions, including mood and emotions. Fluctuations in hormone levels during pregnancy, such as in the case of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, can trigger symptoms.

Some studies have suggested a link between hormonal birth control and developing mood disorders. This may be because hormonal birth control can alter the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which can affect mood regulation.

Certain medical conditions that affect hormone levels, such as thyroid disorders, can also contribute to anxiety. If you are experiencing hormone-caused anxiety, speak with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Medical Conditions

Individuals who struggle with chronic illnesses[8] like cancer or heart disease carry an increased risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders. For example, chronic pain, thyroid disorders, and multiple sclerosis have all been linked to major depression.

Mood and anxiety disorders can manifest as symptoms in certain medical conditions, while others may experience mental disorders as comorbidities due to the challenges associated with chronic illness.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse[9] is a significant environmental factor that can contribute to the development of anxiety and mood disorders. Research shows that individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol are at a higher risk for developing clinical depression and anxiety. Substance abuse can also worsen the symptoms of preexisting mood disorder.

Additionally, substance abuse can result in social and financial problems, exacerbating mood disorders and increasing the risk of suicide. Treating substance abuse is crucial in treating mood disorders that are related to drug or alcohol use.

Who Is At Risk For Mood Disorders?

anxiety and mood disorders
Many factors increase the risk of mood disorders. Photo: Shutterstock

Individuals with a positive family history of mood disorders may have a genetic predisposition that could put them at an increased risk of developing similar mental health disorders. Furthermore, adverse childhood experiences like abuse and neglect can also increase the likelihood of mood disorders.

Other factors that contribute to this risk include growing up in a low-income household, family dissolution,[10] existing medical conditions,[11] and substance abuse.[12] A comprehensive review of these risk factors can aid in identifying individuals who may benefit from early intervention and support.

How Are Anxiety And Mood Disorders Treated?

Various methods exist for treating anxiety and mood disorders. An effective approach involves a comprehensive treatment plan that combines therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and medication. Research has also shown that listening to music can potentially reduce symptoms[13] of anxiety and enhance mood.

By adopting a holistic care plan, individuals can enhance not only their mental well-being but also their overall quality of life.


Talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is often employed to treat mood disorders and anxiety. CBT will require you to identify negative thought patterns so you can work towards reshaping your thinking in a more positive manner. Psychotherapy also helps individuals to understand their mental health problems and develop coping strategies.


Medication can also be an effective treatment option for anxiety and mood disorders. One of the most commonly prescribed medications is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work on the neurotransmitter serotonin that was mentioned earlier.

SSRIs are commonly given to those who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Common names include Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft, Luvox, and Paxil. However, medication should be used in conjunction with therapy and under the guidance of a mental health provider.

Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers can help manage symptoms of mood disorders. Alternative treatments can aid in the management of symptoms related to anxiety disorders. Check out the best anxiety supplements and CBDfx reviews to learn more!

Can Anxiety And Mood Disorders Be Prevented?

While anxiety and mood disorders cannot be prevented entirely, there are steps individuals can take to reduce the risk of developing them. The following are some of the steps you can take to prevent anxiety and mood disorders:

  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Managing stress.
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs.
  • Seeking help when needed.


Anxiety and mood disorders are common mental disorders that can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. These disorders can be managed with various treatment options, including therapy and medication. If you or a loved one is experiencing mood or anxiety disorder symptoms, seek help from a mental health professional and consider a psychiatric evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between anxiety and mood disorders?

Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear or worry, while mood disorders involve persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability.

What are some common symptoms of anxiety disorders?

Symptoms include excessive worry, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and muscle tension.

How are anxiety disorders diagnosed?

A mental health professional will typically conduct a thorough evaluation, including a physical exam and psychological assessment, to determine if an anxiety disorder is present.

What are some common treatments for anxiety disorders?

Treatments may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often effective in helping individuals manage anxiety. You may also consider online therapy.

What are some common symptoms of mood disorders?

Symptoms can include persistent sadness, hopelessness, or irritability, changes in sleep or appetite, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

How are mood disorders diagnosed?

A mental health professional will typically conduct a thorough evaluation, including a physical exam and psychological assessment, to determine if a mood disorder is present.

What are some common treatments for mood disorders?

Treatments may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, such as CBT, are often used to treat common mood disorders.

Can anxiety and mood disorders be cured?

While there is no one cure for anxiety or mood disorders, they can be effectively managed with appropriate treatment. People with these disorders can lead fulfilling and productive lives with proper care.

+ 13 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Steel, Z., Marnane, C., Changiz Iranpour, Chey, T., Jackson, J., Patel, V. and Silove, D. (2014). The global prevalence of common mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis 1980–2013. International Journal of Epidemiology, [online] 43(2), pp.476–493. doi:
  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2017). Any Mood Disorder. [online] Available at:
  3. Patel, R.K. and Rose, G.M. (2023). Persistent Depressive Disorder. [online] Available at:
  4. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2023). Anxiety Disorders. [online] Available at:
  5. Moreland-Capuia, A., Arshya Vahabzadeh, Gillespie, C.F. and Ressler, K.J. (2023). Fear-related anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder. Elsevier eBooks, [online] pp.811–824. doi:
  6. Jonathan R.I. Coleman, Gaspar, H.A., Julien Bryois and Breen, G. (2020). The Genetics of the Mood Disorder Spectrum: Genome-wide Association Analyses of More Than 185,000 Cases and 439,000 Controls. Biological Psychiatry, [online] 88(2), pp.169–184. doi:
  7. Aldinger, F. and Schulze, T.G. (2016). Environmental factors, life events, and trauma in the course of bipolar disorder. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, [online] 71(1), pp.6–17. doi:
  8. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2021). Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Recognizing and Treating Depression. [online] Available at:
  9. Liu, S., Nwabueze, C., Pan, Y., Suzy Mascaro Walter, Brenda Bin Su, Chun, X., Winstanley, E.L. and Wang, K. (2021). Polysubstance Use, Mood Disorders, and Chronic Conditions With Anxiety in Opioid Patients. Western Journal of Nursing Research, [online] 44(12), pp.1088–1099. doi:
  10. Hyland, P., Shevlin, M., Ask Elklit, Mogens Nygaard Christoffersen and Murphy, J. (2016). Social, familial and psychological risk factors for mood and anxiety disorders in childhood and early adulthood: a birth cohort study using the Danish Registry System. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, [online] 51(3), pp.331–338. doi:
  11. Meng, X. and D’Arcy, C. (2012). Common and Unique Risk Factors and Comorbidity for 12-Month Mood and Anxiety Disorders among Canadians. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, [online] 57(8), pp.479–487. doi:
  12. de, S., de, T., Fernanda Pedrotti Moreira, Thaíse Campos Mondin, Simjanoski, M., Flávio Kapczinski, Frey, B.N., Dias, L., Azevedo, R. and Jansen, K. (2021). Risk factors for new-onset bipolar disorder in a community cohort: A five-year follow up study. Psychiatry Research-neuroimaging, [online] 303, pp.114109–114109. doi:
  13. Rebecchini, L. (2021). Music, mental health, and immunity. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health, [online] 18, pp.100374–100374. doi:


Amy Sowell is licensed practical nurse who is passionate about the health and wellness of others. She enjoys writing, researching, and learning new things. Her hobbies include spending time with her husband, two young children, going to the beach, and listening to music. She is married to a 4th year resident pyschiatrist who is very passionate about mental health and bettering the lives the others.


Theresa is a Doctor of Occupational Therapy and a Licensed Occupational Therapist based in Texas. She specializes in content writing, research, medical review, and consulting for health websites and health tech companies. As a clinician, her expertise is in outpatient pediatric and school-based therapy. She also has experience in hand therapy, hospital, rehab, home health, and telehealth settings. Theresa employs a holistic approach to serve individuals of all age groups, from children to older adults.

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