The feelings are subjective sensations of psychophysiological typewhich have a transitory character, occurring in response to a stimulus of any kind, internal or external. But our mood is more of a “background” feeling.

In this article we talk about moods, their characteristics and the factors that modulate them, as well as the types of moods that are used and how they can cause problems if they intensify.

What is a mood?

Moods are part of our subjective experience, as are emotions. Both are sensations that our body generates in response to certain stimuli and environmental factors, but emotions have a more transitory characterthey occur and fade quickly.

Moods are maintained over time, influencing our behavior and way of thinking. These, in turn, are influenced by our needs and biological characteristics, such as nutrition, sleep, physical activity or stress level. They can last for minutes, but they can also last for hours, weeks, or even longer.

According to expert scientists such as Robert E. Thayer, this is a sort of “white noise”which we experience in relation to a series of internal and external factors, according to two systems of subjective biological excitation, two mood variables referred to as tension level and energy level.

What types are there?

There are a multitude of moods, as they are caused by a complicated combination of factors. The majority of the population is located in a normal” mood -in the sense of not producing problems for the life of the person, called euthymic.

A calm, low-intensity mood that is characterized by not being especially elevated or depressed. It is found in a spectrum between two extremes, dysthymia – psychic depression – and hyperthymia, psychic activation.

According to current scientific theories, states depend on the interaction of two biological systems of emotional response. On the one hand there would be the one in charge of generating tension, on the other hand there would be the one in charge of generating energy. These would go respectively from tense to relaxed, from active to tired and vice-versa.

This generates various combinations according to the state of each of the mood variables that, as we have previously commented, depend on psychophysiological factors such as hunger or stress. We can explain them around of 4 moods that are fluctuating:

1. Calm-Active

The calm-active mood is considered one of the most beneficial and enjoyable. It is optimal to maintain a productive activity and usually occurs in the mornings, in part by the action of circadian cycles, which affect our emotional state.

2. Calm-tired

The state of calm and tiredness is related to relaxation. It’s how we feel especially at night, before we go to sleep. The point of “zero energy, zero tension” would be the one we reached just before sleep.

3. Tenso-Active

This state is also characterized by high productivity, but at the same time by nervousness and urgency, also manifested at a physiological level, for example in cardiac activity or the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, related to stress.

4. Tense-Tired

The state of tension and tiredness is habitual when our energies are very low. The physical condition is affected or exhausted, which generates negative emotions and nervousness. It’s promoted by sunset.

Pathological moods

Mood swings are natural, they occur constantly in relation to our lives. Even though they condition us, its intensity is not a problem for the general populationbut it is for those who experience them most intensely.

When these states of mind “radicalize”In some cases, they pathologically affect the normal functioning of the individual, both of his emotions and of his social interactions.

An excessively elevated state, beyond hyperthymia, is considered a state of mania. On the contrary, an excessively dysthymic state can end up resulting in depressive moods. This type of mood is associated with psychological and psychiatric illnesses, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Mood disorders


Depression is a mental disorder that causes a low mood of unhappiness. The duration and intensity of emotions increase in relation to negative stimuli. In other words, an intensification of feelings of sadness.

There are several causes of depression, but its physiological explanation is not yet solidly defined, nor are its causes. People with chronic depressive feelings often have genetic factors that predispose them to these symptoms, such as mutations in important neurotransmitter receptors – for example, those of serotonin-.


The mania refers to a excessively high state of euphoric feelings or irritability -with a tendency to irritability in the face of negative stimuli. In extreme cases, manic states can cause hallucinations or delusions, but it is characterized by excitement, accelerated thinking, hyperempathy, and loquacity.

Manic states can be used positively, as some actors and artists – e.g. Stephen Fry – demonstrate, but they can also be used positively. can be incredibly destructivePeople in episodes of mania tend not to be able to control their excessive energy.

Other associated pathologies

The lability of the mood, also known as mood or emotional instabilityis relatively common. It is an important part of several psychiatric disorders, affecting approximately 14% of the population.

The vast majority of people with mood instability is related to depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders. They are also an important part of the symptoms with disorders such as bipolar disorder, some cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or addictions.

Bibliographic references

  • Thayer, R. (1990). The Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal.
  • Dysthymia: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. (2018)
  • Broome, M., Saunders, K., Harrison, P., & Marwaha, S. (2015). Mood instability: Significance, definition and measurement. British Journal Of Psychiatry, 207(4), 283-285. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.114.158543