Fluctuations in mood are normal. Various situations throughout the day can cause our moods to change. For example, we may feel excited for dinner plans, but then friends cancel last minute; your mood may go from excited to disappointed and flat. These are considered normal changes in mood.

However, for some people, mood swings occur rapidly and without warning or explanation. These mood swings can be so intense and overwhelming that your ability to function throughout the day is affected. You may have little control over your emotions and behaviour. If your mood swings disrupt your life, you could be experiencing a mood disorder.

What are the signs and symptoms of Mood Disorders characterised by mood swings?

  • Do you experience extreme and intense moods? Perhaps you feel elated and so happy you could burst! Or, maybe you feel agitated and angry, or severely depressed and empty; all for no reason. You may notice your moods are more extreme than others around you.
  • Unexpected mood changes that occur gradually or rapidly. One moment you may feel happy, only to shortly afterwards, feel agitated. People may describe you as “really moody” and unpredictable. Any mood may last hours, days, weeks or months. They can be mild, such as going from happy to irritable; or extreme, such as going from euphoric to deep despair.

Mania

Mania is a distinct and persistent period of an abnormally elevated mood. An individual experiencing mania may appear “larger than life”. They may be any combination of overly happy (euphoric), excited, agitated, irritable and hyperactive. People suffering from Bipolar 1 disorder shift between between manic and depressive episodes. A manic mood typically lasts longer than one week in Bipolar 1 disorder.

Symptoms and signs of mania include:

  • Elevated and euphoric mood
  • Racing thoughts and ideas
  • Rapid speech
  • Increased energy with little need for sleep
  • Physical restlessness – for example, pacing the room
  • Inflated self confidence and a sense of superiority
  • Difficulty concentrating and being easily distracted
  • Impulsiveness – for example, spending large amounts of money on a whim
  • Engaging in activities that are risky and dangerous
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Heightened senses – for example, things might look brighter than usual
  • Increased sex drive
  • Changes to patterns in speech – for example, rhyming or going on random tangents

Hypomania

Hypomania is very similar to mania, in that it is marked by a period of an abnormally elevated mood and overactive behaviour. However, hypomania is not as intense as mania and tends to be shorter in duration. An individual experiencing hypomania may appear overly happy, irritable, impatient or angry. People experiencing Bipolar 11 disorder, tend to shift between depressive and hypomanic episodes. A hypomanic mood generally lasts for four days or more.

Symptoms and signs of hypomania include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Increased energy with little need for sleep
  • Inflated self confidence and sense of superiority
  • Racing thoughts and ideas
  • Talking very quickly
  • Difficulty relaxing and feeling on edge
  • Increased sex drive
  • Impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours
  • Hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating

Depression

Depression is marked by a persistent abnormally low mood. It is more than just feeling sad and being in “the blues”. A person with depression may appear overwhelmingly sad and withdrawn. They may oscillate between sadness, irritability, anger and worry. A depressive episode typically lasts longer than two weeks.

Symptoms and signs of depression include:

  • Extreme and prolonged sadness
  • Feelings of irritability, anger, anxiety and general worry
  • Loss of pleasure and enjoyment
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Loss of hope
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite (eating more or less than usual)
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

How do Mood Swings affect me?

  • Mood swings affect day to day life. You may struggle to get up in the morning, or fulfil your daily responsibilities. You may take time off work, cancel appointments or fail to attend commitments. You may find it difficult to concentrate and find yourself preoccupied with thoughts.
  • Mood swings take a heavy toll on relationships. Inconsistencies in your mood leave loved ones feeling like they are walking on eggshells. Impulsive decisions you make whilst experiencing extreme mood swings may result in conflict and cause trust issues within your relationships.
  • Do you drink excessively or take drugs? Extreme mood changes can leave you craving another “up” mood. Or, perhaps you use substances to relax or numb the intensity of your feelings.
  • Mania and hypomania leads to impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours. For example, you may shoplift or drive recklessly. You may spend excessive amounts of money without plan or thought. Or, perhaps you are consumed with sexual thoughts, resulting in promiscuous sex.
  • Feelings of shame, embarrassment or anxiety after an episode of intense mood change. For example, you may feel ashamed of your behaviour at a work function, and dread facing your colleagues again. Or, perhaps you feel extremely anxious about your finances after realising how much money you spent.
  • Mood swings affect your sleep. In mania and hypomania, the individual may experience surges of energy, which detracts from sleep. It is common to feel unusually creative at night: You may stay awake all night writing, creating artwork or playing music. Or, you may find yourself vigorously cleaning your house at 3am. Alternatively, if you experience depression, you may sleep more than usual and opt for the donna over facing your day.

How can I treat my Mood Swings?

There are several well-researched treatments that are effective in treating Mood Disorders with mood swings (including Bipolar I, Bipolar II and Cyclothymia), including: Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychoeducation, Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Family Therapy.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are compassionate, non-judgemental psychologists, who are experienced and trained in supporting individuals experiencing mood swings, including Bipolar Disorder and Cyclothymia. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.

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