Mood disorders are conditions that include depressed episodes, manic episodes, or cycles of mania and depression. If you have a medical condition that causes depression, severe anxiety, or mania, then you might receive a diagnosis of “mood disorder caused by a general medical condition” As the name suggests, this is when various physical diseases or conditions create some form of mental health issue.1

Doctor with patient in exam roomThere are certain criteria that have to be met before a person receives a diagnosis of mood disorder caused by a general medical condition. As with any form of mood disorder, the symptoms (whether depression or mania) have to cause significant impairment of daily life, job performance, or academic responsibilities.

When mood-disorder depression hits, it lasts for a very long period of time, and you may lose interest in hobbies, friends, or goals. Things may seem hopeless, and you may even have suicidal thoughts. Mania may cause a surge in energy, sometimes with anger, agitation, or euphoria. In either situation, you may experience emotions that feel uncontrollable, relationships may be strained, and you may feel tired from sleeping poorly. These episodes make it very difficult to live normally.

For example, a study conducted at the University of North Carolina found that patients who underwent heart bypass surgery often experienced lingering depression after their surgeries. Twelve years after their surgeries, up to 83 percent of the patient population remained unemployed, and 57 percent of them had sexual problems as a result of depression caused by their heart trouble. This would be a case of mood disorder due to a general medical condition.2

What Medical Conditions Can Cause Mood Disorders?

Almost any severe medical condition can trigger a mood disorder under the right circumstances.3 Some well-known illnesses that can lead to a diagnosis of mood disorder caused by a general medical condition can include:

  • Neurological disorders (Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Heart attacks
  • Pancreatic diseases
  • Thyroid problems
  • Cancer
  • Infections
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s colitis and ulcerative colitis)

Sometimes, a physical illness begins at the same time a mood disorder happens to also begin. Other times, a severe physical illness may trigger a mental health disorder that was already about to begin. It is important to take time to work with your doctor and counselor to investigate every possible cause of any type of mood disorder. This may involve completing a round of blood work to see if vitamin levels, dehydration, or malnutrition have caused a change in mood. It may also mean thoroughly reviewing all medications and treatments for side-effects that may have caused an abrupt change in mood. When you are given the diagnosis of a mood disorder caused by a general medical condition, it is very important to take time to be sure that your mood disorder is actually caused by your physical ailment. This will allow you to treat your condition in the best and fastest way possible.

How Can a Mood Disorder Caused by a General Medical Condition Be Treated?

Treating depression that is caused by a general medical condition can involve the administration of standard medications: antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Therapy may also help you cope with life changes related to illness, and supportive groups may put you in touch with other people who understand what you are going through.

Mania or bipolar symptoms that are caused by a medical condition may also be treated the same way that bipolar disorders are treated. These symptoms may also be treated after a closer examination of medications, blood levels, nutrition, and other outside factors. There are many things that may cause mania, and it may take some time to determine the best treatment.

Treatment of a mood disorder that resulted from a general medical condition should also address the underlying medical cause. This may involve continued treatment for the primary medical concern, and it may involve finding second, or even third medical opinions. Psychotherapy is important here as well, because it offers a better support system, and another person who can help advocate for your wellness.

A medical condition compounded by a mood disorder can make life very difficult, but Black Bear Lodge is here to help you. We can put you in touch with resources that will aid your recovery. Please call us today to find out how we can assist you.


1 Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Arlington, VA. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. Print.

2 Cohan, C., Pimm, J., Jude, J. Coping with Heart Surgery and Bypassing Depression: A Family’s Guide to the Medical, Emotional, and Practical Issues. Manfield, CT, Psychosocial Press, 1997. Print.

3 Johns Hopkins Medicine. Overview of Mood Disorders. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec 2017.