Mood and Personality Disorders: What’s the Difference?

Identifying the differences between mood and personality disorders isn’t as easy as distinguishing between different medical conditions. Unless you have a background in psychology, you may not fully understand the differences between a mood disorder and a personality disorder.

While there is some overlap between the symptoms of these two conditions, they each have unique aspects and require different treatment methods. If someone you love is struggling with the symptoms of a mental health condition, it’s important for them to see a psychologist to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

What are Mood Disorders?

A mood disorder is characterized by moods or emotional states that aren’t consistent with an individual’s circumstances. Research indicates that at least 20.9 million Americans, or nearly 10 percent of the population, suffer from some type of mood disorder.

Certain demographics are particularly vulnerable to this form of mental health disorder: Women are nearly 50 percent more likely than men to experience a mood disorder during their lifetime, and the average age of onset is 30. Examples of common mood disorders include:

  • Major depression: This condition is marked by a decreased interest in typical activities and at least two consecutive weeks of irritability, extreme sadness and hopelessness.
  • Dysthymia: This condition involves lower levels of depression that last one year or more.
  • Bipolar disorder: This disorder is characterized by periods of elevated mood, or mania, and periods of depressed mood; it is sometimes known as manic depression.

Typical symptoms of a mood disorder may include:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

What are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are characterized by rigid, unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior. Individuals suffering from personality disorders have difficulty relating to other people and situations; this can cause significant problems in a person’s personal and professional life. Common personality disorders include:

  • Borderline personality disorder: This condition is marked by significant emotional instability, distorted self-image and mood swings.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: This disorder is characterized by an inflated sense of importance, fragile self-esteem and lack of empathy.

Signs and symptoms of personality disorders may include:

  • Unstable relationships
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Fragile self-image
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Wildly shifting moods

Understanding the Differences

Mood disorders and personality disorders share some similar characteristics and symptoms. Misdiagnosis is common, but a few differentiating factors do exist. Personality disorders tend to be more constant and pervasive than mood disorders.

A person with a personality disorder often has difficulty interacting with other people because they are fundamentally different, while a person with a mood disorder has normal interactions outside of their periods of extreme sadness or happiness.

Treatment Options

Mood disorders and personality disorders can wreak havoc on a person’s life, but both types of disorders are highly treatable. People with mood disorders tend to respond well to medication – antidepressant and mood-stabilizing drugs can help correct imbalances in the brain’s chemistry.

Psychotherapy is the primary form of treatment for personality disorders. During therapy sessions, clients learn how to manage their symptoms and modify behaviors that interfere with their work and relationships.

Mood disorders and personality disorders have common factors, but the two types of conditions are also different in many ways. Left untreated or misdiagnosed, these mental health disorders can worsen and increase the risk for other problems such as substance abuse or eating disorders.

If you know someone who may be suffering with a mental health disorder, help and hope are available.

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