When it comes to mental health, many people neglect to understand the prevalence and knowledge of mental health disorders. Most people are initially motivated to learn about different mental health disorders because a loved one is diagnosed with one or because they themselves received a diagnosis.
It is crucial to learn bout different mental health disorders — not only because more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with one at some point in their lifetime — but also because those that struggle with them deserve compassion and empathy, which enables their healing process.
Two groups of mental health disorders that are commonly grouped together, or mistaken for one another, include mood disorders and personality disorders. These disorders share overlapping symptoms but are categorized and treated differently for various reasons. It is essential to be familiar with what conditions fall under which category to better understand how a given disorder uniquely affects an individual’s life.
The Difference Between Mood and Personality
To better understand what makes mood disorders and personality disorders distinct from one another, it is critical to be able to distinguish between mood and personality.
Mood is characterized by a pervasive and sustained feeling, which is experienced internally and impacts nearly all aspects of an individual’s behavior. Mood disorders are characterized by disruptions in emotions, particularly referring to episodes of extreme lows (depression) and extreme highs (hypomania or mania).
Personality, on the other hand, refers to individual differences in patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. Personality recognizes the long-standing traits and patterns that cause an individual to experience life in their own unique way. Similarly, personality disorders are characterized by enduring patterns of inner experiences that deviate from societal and cultural expectations.
Examples of Mood Disorders
More broadly, mood disorders are conditions in which the underlying cause affects an individual’s emotional state. While it is normal for people to feel happy, sad, angry, or irritable from time to time, individuals with mood disorders experience persistent difficulties with regulating their moods. The most common mood disorders include:
- Major depressive disorder (depression): Characterized by prolonged and persistent moods of extreme lows
- Bipolar disorder (manic depression or bipolar affective disorder): Characterized by alternating episodes of intense depression and mania
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD, also known as seasonal depression): Characterized by depression symptoms that occur most often during fall and winter as there are fewer hours of daylight
- Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder): Characterized by long-term, chronic depression symptoms
Examples of Personality Disorders
While individuals with personality disorders may struggle with mood, their primary symptom is not a lack of emotional regulation. Instead, those who struggle with personality disorders experience significant conflict within their interpersonal relationships and their relationship with themselves. This is because their long-term patterns of thought and behavior are unhealthy, which often causes difficulties with the ability to perceive and relate to others. Personality disorders are divided into three clusters:
Individuals that experience cluster A personality disorders are typically recognized as having odd or eccentric patterns of thoughts and behavior. These conditions include:
- Paranoid personality disorder: Characterized by having significant suspicion or distrust of others, interpreting others’ motives as harmful, and may cause an individual to appear hostile or emotionally detached
- Schizoid personality disorder: Characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships and lack of emotional response during social interactions
- Schizotypal personality disorder: Characterized by significant eccentric behavior, such as dressing peculiarly or having unusual or bizarre thoughts and beliefs, causing an individual to feel uncomfortable in social settings and have trouble forming close relationships
Cluster B personality disorders are defined by unstable emotions followed by dramatic or impulsive behavior. These conditions include:
- Antisocial personality disorder: Characterized by a disregard for the rights of others or the law, which can result in remorseful behavior such as lying, stealing, aggression, or other illegal behaviors
- Histrionic personality disorder: Characterized by severe emotions and can cause an individual to have an excessive need for attention and approval
- Borderline personality disorder: Characterized by a fragile sense of self, fear of abandonment, extreme emotional outbursts, and intense and unstable relationships which can lead to deliberate self-harm or self-destructive behavior
- Narcissistic personality disorder: Characterized by inflated patterns of self-esteem, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others
Cluster C personality disorders are defined by anxious and fearful patterns of thought and behavior. These conditions include:
- Avoidant personality disorder: Characterized by extreme sensitivity to negative judgments and feelings of inadequacy, which can cause an individual to avoid social interaction
- Dependent personality disorder: Characterized by a fear of being alone or independent, which can cause attachment issues
Mood disorders and personality disorders are often mistaken for one another because they overlap in symptoms. However, mood disorders are defined by persistent disruptions in an individual’s emotional state, whereas personality disorders are defined by unhealthy and unstable patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior that cause difficulties in interpersonal relationships. While these disorders lie in separate categories, they can both cause severe symptoms that interfere with an individual’s ability to function normally in their daily life. SoCal Mental Health is a treatment center that recognizes the value of individualized treatment plans when working with clients to treat and manage their mental health disorders. We offer a wide range of treatment programs and options to help create an intimate treatment experience for all our clients. For more information about our treatment programs for mood and personality disorders, call us today at (949) 502-2041.