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Is Anxiety a Mood Disorder?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Experts estimate that they affect about 48 million Americans. Some of these people suffer from a persistent sense of unease. Others experience tremendous fear in certain or severe physical reactions at random moments. These symptoms can impact how a person thinks, acts, and interacts with others. But is anxiety a mood disorder? And if it’s not, why isn’t it? 

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an informal term that can refer to several distinct disorders. Most anxiety disorders prompt feelings of excessive worry and disproportionate fear. Some anxiety disorders can also cause a person to experience distressing physical symptoms such as racing heart rate, excessive perspiration, dizziness, and a feeling of being smothered or choked. 

Here are examples of common anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Specific phobia
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Panic disorder

In most cases, the primary differences among anxiety disorders are the triggers that bring about symptoms. 

For example, the symptoms of specific phobia occur when a person encounters a certain item, object, or location. In the case of agoraphobia, the onset of symptoms often happens when a person is in an enclosed or wide open space, or among a crowd of people. Social anxiety disorder causes emotional distress when a person believes they may be observed and judged by others.

People who have generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder may develop symptoms with no warning and no apparent trigger. GAD is associated with emotions such as fear or worry, while panic disorder involves physical symptoms that can cause a person to believe they may be dying.

Clearly, anxiety disorders are painful. In severe cases, they can even be debilitating. But is anxiety a mood disorder? To answer that question, we need to take a closer look at the generally accepted definition of mood disorders.

What Are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders are a somewhat informal category of mental health concerns. This category does not appear in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but it is commonly used by many mental health professionals. When clinicians use the term “mood disorders,” they are usually referring to the following conditions:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder

Other forms of depression (such as postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and substance/medication-induced depressive disorder) also fit into the mood disorder category. 

You may have noticed that anxiety disorders aren’t mentioned in the preceding paragraph or the bulleted list above. This is because anxiety is not typically considered to be a mood disorder. In general, mood disorders are characterized by the following types of symptoms:

  • Periods of extreme sadness 
  • Changes in energy level
  • Increases and decreases in motivation
  • Fluctuating self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleeping too much or hardly at all
  • Grandiosity and/or a sense of inadequacy

Is Anxiety a Mood Disorder?

If you read the previous section, you probably already know the answer to this question. (If you didn’t read the previous section, don’t worry. We’ll clarify the matter below. We understand that some readers prefer to skim through an article to get the information they’re looking for.)

This one’s for the skimmers, then: Is anxiety a mood disorder? No, it is not.

As we mentioned in the introduction to this article, anxiety disorders can affect how people think, act, and interact with others. They can prompt feelings of extreme concern, worry, and fear. But they don’t cause the dramatic swings in mood, energy, appetite, and motivation that depressive disorders and the various forms of bipolar disorder do.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that anxiety disorders aren’t serious mental health concerns. They most certainly are. And it doesn’t mean that anxiety disorders can’t be treated. Because they most certainly can. 

What it does mean is that when you are seeking professional treatment for anxiety, you want to find a provider that is familiar with these specific conditions. If you develop both anxiety and co-occurring depression, or bipolar disorder and co-occurring anxiety, then you want to find a place that can treat the full scope of your needs, including the mood disorder.

How Are Anxiety & Mood Disorders Treated in Atlanta, GA?

Treatment for anxiety disorders and mood disorders often involves prescription medication and therapy. For people who have anxiety disorders, benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (brand name: Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and clonazepam (Klonopin) may be prescribed.

For those who have a depressive disorder, or one of the forms of bipolar disorder that include symptoms of depression, medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or atypical antidepressants may be most beneficial.

The therapeutic part of treatment for anxiety disorders and mood disorders can help people learn to manage the symptoms that are not eased by medication. Therapy can help people identify harmful thought patterns and replace them with healthier ways of thinking. During therapy sessions, people can also develop strategies for avoiding or responding to the situations that may trigger the onset of symptoms. 

Depending on how a person has been impacted by anxiety and/or mood disorders, treatment for these conditions may include residential care, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient programming. Some people only need one level of care, while others may be best served by receiving treatment on multiple levels. What’s most important is determining which medications, therapies, and levels of care are right for each person.

Get Treatment for Anxiety & Mood Disorders in Atlanta, GA

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers a full continuum of personalized treatment for adults who have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health concerns. Our anxiety rehab in Atlanta, Georgia, is a welcoming place where dedicated professionals offer customized services in a manner that respects the inherent dignity of each person who heals with us. Give us a call or reach out through our admissions page today to learn more.