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Mood disorders include, among others, depressive disorder or depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder often take medication as part of their treatment, which means they are not usually treated in general mental health care [basis GGZ]. For this reason, only depression and dysthymia will be discussed here.

The Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) has a number of fact sheets and other resources about symptoms and treatments for mood disorders on their website.

Depressive disorder

Most people, from time to time, report feeling extremely sad and may even say ‘I feel depressed’. Psychologists only diagnose depression in people whose symptoms persist longer than several weeks, for the most part of each day; their symptoms include feelings of despondency or dejection and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that they previously found enjoyable. In addition to these two primary characteristics of depression, sufferers of depression also report a variety of other symptoms, such as feelings of worthlessness or guilt, thoughts about death, ruminating, problems sleeping, fatigue, low energy, sluggishness, low libido, changes in appetite, lack of concentration, as well as difficulty making decisions.

When a ‘depressive disorder’ is diagnosed, it is also classified as mild, moderate or severe. A distinction is also made as to whether this is first time you’re suffering from depression (isolated episode) or if you’ve had depression before (recurrent episodes). If the depression is considered moderate or severe, medication may be recommended in addition to psychological therapy. In that case, specialized mental health care [gespecialiseerde GGZ] is usually advisable. Mild depression is typically treated in general mental health care [basis GGZ].

In cognitive behavioural therapy, you will learn how depression emerges and is maintained. Treatment focuses on dealing with your depressive feelings and changing your behaviour. You will often be encouraged to get out and do more. Attention will be paid to preventing future episodes of depression towards the end of treatment.

People who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression are regularly prescribed medication. Other types of therapy may also be recommended, such as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. Your therapist can tell you more about this.

In some people, depression has a seasonal pattern. Typically emerging in autumn or winter, this type of depressive disorder is usually called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or ‘depression with seasonal pattern’. Light therapy is often the recommended treatment.


The symptoms of a dysthymic disorder typically last most of the day and persist for at least two years. Dysthymia does not meet the criteria of a depressive disorder, but people who suffer from dysthymic disorders are frequently sad and often have a number of symptoms associated with depression, such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, low energy, appetite changes, lack of concentration, or difficulty making decisions. It is possible to develop depression on top of dysthymia.

The treatment for dysthymia is for the most part very similar to therapy for depressive disorder.

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