8.4 Bipolar, Depressive, Anxiety, and Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

6 min readjanuary 1, 2023

Emily Pedrazzi

Emily Pedrazzi

Jillian Holbrook

Jillian Holbrook

AP Psychology 🧠

334 resources
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Mood Disorders

Most people think of mood disorders when clinical psychology is mentioned. Mood disorders are characterized by unusual and disruptive changes in mood, manifesting in depression, mania, or both. These disruptions can be caused by chemical imbalances, genetic factors, environmental factors, and/or the time of year.
Depression can manifest as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or Dysthymic Disorder. Each type of depression has different patterns. SAD has a seasonal pattern, Dysthymic Disorder lasts multiple years and is mild, and MDD can last months or years and is more severe.

Image Courtesy of Verywell Mind.

Major Depressive Disorder

MDD is the common perception of the general population when they think of depression. MDD happens when a person experiences a depressed mood and loss of interest for a long, sustained period of time.
Depression often occurs after some sort of loss, whether it be a present loss or a past loss. Those with depression lose touch with reality because of these prolonged depressive thoughts. This disorder slows people down and makes them feel unmotivated to do just about anything—even getting out of bed becomes a difficult and time-consuming task.
Eventually, those with depression begin to redirect their energy into exercise and escaping depression.

Dysthymic Disorder

Those with persistent depression, or dysthymic disorder, experience mild depression for at least two years and often display some of these symptoms:
  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Sleeping problems
  3. Low energy and self-esteem
  4. Loss of focus
  5. Hopelessness

Bipolar Disorder

Another common mood disorder is Bipolar Disorder (BP). BP is characterized by fluctuating mood swings between depression and mania or hypomania. Mania is marked by a hyperactive state that can be euphoric.
During a manic episode, an individual may be more impulsive, irritable, hyperactive, energetic, and prone to reckless behavior. 
Those that suffer from bipolar disorder experience depression sometimes, mania or hypomania others. Bipolar disorder can be cured.


Suicide is more likely to happen if an individual has depression or bipolar disorder.
(National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255))


There is also something called nonsuicidal self-injury. Those who engage in NSSI often do so as a coping mechanism. It can also be related to past traumas and includes any method of self-harm.



Individuals with a family that had mood disorders are more likely to have them as well. Depression and BP are very genetic. The depressed brain shows a smaller left frontal lobe, which is usually associated with positive emotions. 🧬
Neurotransmitters are greatly affected by depression. There is very little norepinephrine and serotonin in the brains of those that are depressed.


Social-cognitive psychologists believe that biology cannot be the only reason for depression; there has to be some sort of low self-esteem and a negative way of viewing life.
Your explanatory style impacts the way you view life and how vulnerable you may be to depression. It is basically how you handle stress:
  • "It's going to last forever" is what someone with a stable explanatory style may say.
  • "It's going to affect everything I do" is what someone with a global explanatory style may say.
  • "It's all my fault" is what someone with an internal explanatory style may say.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety comes in many different forms due to the wide spectrum of anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can be categorized into trauma, compulsion, and fear-based anxiety. Some individuals are more prone to anxiety since they remember threats and notice patterns more.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is a mixture of physiological and fear-based anxiety. It often includes unpredictable panic attacks with physical symptoms and terror.
A panic attack is characterized by physiological symptoms such as sweating, fast heart rate, or dizziness. The fear may be onset from the anxiety of a panic attack occurring. 

Image Courtesy of Verywell Mind.


Many people underestimate the stress one with OCD experiences on a daily basis. There is a misconception that OCD is all about being neat and organized. However, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is really an anxiety disorder rooted in obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are repetitive thoughts 💭 that cause anxiety and disruptions in day-to-day life. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors 👋 that are the result of obsessions. The difference between the two is one is actions, and the other is thoughts.
People often forget that having OCD becomes very haunting, time-consuming, and ritualistic. Some people with severe OCD can struggle with performing important life activities and routines.

Image Courtesy of Verywell Mind.

Here are some examples of obsessions and compulsions:
Obsessions (repeating thoughts)Compulsions (repeating behaviors)
-concern with dirt, germs, and toxins 🦠 -something bad happening 24/7 -symmetry, order, exactness 🕸️-excessive hand-washing and bathing 🛀 -repeating rituals -checking doors, locks, and homework multiple times 🔒


Another key anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by consistent anxiety of worst-case scenario situations regarding any ongoing event.
GAD is basically an exaggerated arousal of the autonomic nervous system. Because of their consistent anxiety, those with GAD have a hard time sleeping and are often accompanied by a depressed mood. Concentration becomes difficult with all of the thoughts and worries circling their minds constantly.
Symptoms, such as dizziness and sweaty palms, are common for only the first six months of the disorder.

Image Courtesy of Verywell Mind.


Lastly, several anxiety disorders are rooted in fear. A phobia is a disruptive fear of any specific source, varying widely. Phobias tend to cause avoidant behavior toward the source of fear. Many accept their phobias, but others are so avoidant of them that they cannot live their everyday lives properly.
There can be phobias of animals, heights, bugs, storms, enclosed spaces, or the outdoors.

Image Courtesy of Verywell Mind.

Another example of a phobia is Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia), which is anxiety caused by most social interactions. People with this disorder fear rejection, embarrassment, or judgment.
If a fear is intense enough, it may result in agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a fear of being in situations where it might be difficult or embarrassing to escape or get help in the event of a panic attack. People with agoraphobia often avoid public places, such as shopping malls, bridges, or airplanes, because they are afraid of having a panic attack in these situations. They may also avoid leaving their home or venturing far from home because they are afraid of being in a place where they cannot easily access help. Agoraphobia can be a very debilitating condition and significantly interfere with a person's daily life.


As always, there are multiple perspectives to view these disorders from.


Behaviorists believe that the unpredictable occurrence of bad events leads to anxiety. They believe in two processes that are used during classical and operant conditioning that pertain specifically to anxiety disorders:
  1. Stimulus Generalization—If a bee stings someone 🐝, that person may develop a fear of all bugs. Another example is if a dog bites someone, the person may develop a fear of all dogs. 🐕
  2. Reinforcement—Once phobias develop, reinforcement makes it hard to get rid of them. If we continue to run away from our fears, we are reinforcing our fears. It becomes a cycle that is difficult to break.


This has to do with Albert Bandura (once more) and observational learning. If we observe other people's fear, we may become afraid of the same stimuli.


How we perceive certain stimuli could make us afraid of them.

Evolutionary and Biological

Evolutionary psychologists believe we are afraid of things that our ancestors protected us from. They also think that we protect ourselves from the unknown.
Biological psychologists believe the fear may include a combination of neuroanatomy, genetics, and biological bases of behavior.
🎥Watch: AP PsychologyClinical: Anxiety and Mood Disorders

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