6 Warning Signs of Mood Disorders in Women

Mood disorders are far more than “feeling blue” or out of sorts. They can deeply impact an individual’s ability to live a fulfilling life. Women are especially vulnerable and suffer from mood disorders at greater rates than men. It is not clear exactly why women suffer from mood disorders at double the rate of men. But research has shown that women are twice as likely to suffer from severe stress. They also react differently and sometimes have different symptoms for mood disorders than men.

Signs of a Mood Disorder

If you recognize any of these warning signs in yourself or a woman you care about, you or your loved one might be struggling with a mood disorder. If any of these symptoms are present it is time to seek help.

1. Avoidance

Men sometimes get aggressive and edgy when struggling with depression. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more withdrawn. If you’re feeling depressed, you might withdraw from others and spend less time socializing. You may not have the energy to do the things you used to do because fatigue is a common symptom of depression. If you’re struggling with the symptom of anxiety as well, you may avoid people and situations out of fear.

2. Feeling worthless and hopeless

If you have been beating yourself up a lot lately, and someone points out that it isn’t like you to be so down on yourself, you could be going through a depressive period. For women, depression feels like being hopeless. You cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hard you try. You are also likely to feel worthless and as if people you care about would be better off without you.

3. Changes in sleep patterns

Mood disorders like depression can also cause physical problems. A big one is related to sleep. Your sleeping patterns may change for no reason that you can determine, like a stressful period at work. You just sleep way more than usual or you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. If you have a co-occurring anxiety disorder, you may find sleeping difficult because your mind is racing with all the things you are currently worried about.

4. Difficulty concentrating on tasks

Many people with mood disorders experience anxiety. If you have anxiety, your mind may seem active, but when you have to settle down to do one thing, you can’t focus. Your anxious thoughts distract you. Occasional disruption from anxiety is normal, but to feel this way all the time is not. Being depressed can also make concentration difficult. You may also find it difficult to make a decision about anything or to remember even the simplest things.

5. Excessive negative thoughts

Mood disorders are often characterized by negative thoughts occur often. We all experience these thoughts sometimes, but if you are depressed, you may constantly engage in thoughts of self-loathing. If you have anxiety, your mind is constantly concocting worst-case scenarios, even for the most innocent and ordinary of events, like going to the grocery store.

6. Drop off in performance

Maybe you have noticed that you aren’t performing well at work, or at school if you’re a student. If you play sports or exercise regularly, you may be thinking that you just can’t be bothered and you stop participating. These are signs that something isn’t right.

Other Mood Disorder Symptoms in Women

Symptoms of mood disorders vary from person to person and depend on the type of mood disorder. Mood disorder symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Guilt
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty engaging in daily activities
  • Withdrawing from friends and social activities
  • Teetering between extreme lows and highs
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue

Types of Mood Disorders

There are many different kinds of mood disorders that can impact women. Understanding these mental health issues can lead you to find the right tests and procedures to help you heal. It’ll also help you find the right treatment programs for people with mood disorders.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. It has symptoms of extreme high and low moods. Bipolar disorder can greatly interfere with people’s ability to function in everyday life. Often bipolar disorder requires mood stabilizers to regulate the extreme moods that people cycle through. During the “highs” a person with bipolar disorder may feel elated and invincible with extreme bursts of productivity. The “lows,” or depressed moods, may leave them despondent and potentially suicidal.


Dysthymia (or persistent depressive disorder) is a milder form of depression than major depression. It can nevertheless be disruptive to people’s lives. Persistent depressive disorder affects nearly 11 million Americans. Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression with symptoms lasting for two years or more. In addition to a depressed mood, people with dysthymia may experience:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Hopelessness
  • Apathy
  • Social isolation

Major Depression

People with major depressive disorders are plagued by overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. Symptoms must last for at least two weeks for a major depression diagnosis. Common major depressive disorder symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Hopelessness
  • Unexplained physical ailments
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Thoughts of suicide

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder includes persistent low or depressed moods that typically coincide with winter weather. SAD is a common form of depression that affects around 3 million people every year. Seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Changes in appetite

Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

A substance-induced mood disorder is brought on by prescribed or illegal drug use. Mood disorders due to substance abuse may have these symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Mania
  • Mood Disorder Related to Another Health Condition
  • This condition is characterized by a depressed mood or agitated/elated mood brought about by:
  • Physical injury
  • Chronic illness like diabetes or multiple sclerosis
  • Terminal illness like cancer or AIDS

What Causes Mood Disorders?

There’s no definitive cause for mood disorders. Depression and mood disorders are usually rooted in a complex interplay of biological and environmental factors. Contributing factors of depressive disorders may include:


Family studies show genetics play a large role in major depressive disorder. If you have a first-degree relative with major depression, your chances increase twofold to threefold of also having depression. Twin studies suggest genetics may account for 40-50% of developing major depressive disorder.


About half of people with trauma also have major depressive disorder. Complex trauma stemming from childhood trauma has a strong correlation with rates of depression and suicidality in adults. Some forms of complex trauma include:

  • Emotional or physical neglect
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Unpredictable childhood environment
  • Overly enmeshed or codependent parent
  • Witnessing others experience trauma

People who’ve experienced a more covert form of trauma are also at high risk for mood disorders. Types of situations that may lead to depression include:

  • Military combat
  • Rape
  • Assault
  • Involvement in a natural disaster

Substance Abuse

Research shows that mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder are the most common co-occurring disorders among people with substance use disorders. Some people with mood disorders are drawn to substances in an attempt to soothe their depressive symptoms. The relief drugs and alcohol provide is temporary though. Substances work on the brain in ways that exacerbate mental health symptoms with regular use. When symptoms of mood disorders are treated, people with this dual diagnosis often feel less of an urge to abuse drugs and alcohol.

You Are Not Alone

If you recognize any of the warning signs of mood disorders in yourself, ask for help. Professional help through medication and counseling can get you through these difficult times. If you see these signs in someone you care for, be sure to step in and speak up. Tell her what you’ve noticed and lend your support in getting her the help she needs.

Scroll to Top