Some moodiness is likely a part of everyone’s life; sometimes we feel happy, other times we are sad; some days we have lots of energy, while at other times we may be fatigued and unmotivated. When such mood changes interfere with our ability to work or go to school, when they harm our relationships significantly, when they cause us to miss sleep, abuse drugs, or behave in ways we later regret, or when they lead to risky behaviors, thoughts of suicide, or losing touch with reality, our mood requires professional attention.
There are many different ways to manage mood swings. Keeping a mood log or mood journal is one highly effective way of tracking moods. Being able to look back at certain times, days or events the preceded a mood can help a person identify triggers that may have led to mood shifts. Nutrition is another vital component to mood management. Sugar, alcohol, medication and caffeine are just some of the things that can sharply increase of decrease affect. Sleep and exercise, like nutrition, play key roles in maintaining a stable mood. Sleep deprivation can cause the body’s internal clock to be off balance, which can affect appetite and energy level. Additionally, sleeping in a dark room, without television or other stimulation, allows the body to get the quality of sleep it needs to recover. Exercise, even in moderation, increases the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good hormone, which boosts mood. Sticking to a schedule is another great way to manage mood swings. People who struggle with highs and lows may find that getting up at the same time each morning and going to sleep at the same time each night may be very helpful as well.
Mood disorders can be extremely debilitating. Psychotherapy can help a person who struggles with mood problems. Gaining control over the immediate mood fluctuation is the first goal of psychotherapy. Therapists may use techniques such as journaling, meditation, mindfulness or breathing exercises to help a client regulate their mood in order to be able to address the issues that lie beneath the mood. Depression and bipolar are just two psychological issues that could be causing severe mood swings.
Psychotherapy aims to identify if the moods are the result of a mental health problem, or symptomatic of other issues that must be revealed. Once the mood is stabilized, the client can begin to explore the causes of the highs and lows they experience and identify situations that put them at risk for mood swings. Additionally, psychotherapy teaches a client how to focus on the present moment and incorporate healthy coping strategies so that they can deal with future stressors as they arise. For people who struggle with mood swings, the ultimate goal of psychotherapy is to learn how to constructively manage moods and maintain a healthy emotional balance.
A persistent low mood is an indication of clinical depression. A mood that is euphoric, that causes us to feel invincible or grandiose, that keeps us awake for days without sleep, or that leads to impulsive behavior is an indicator of a manic episode. If our mood cycles from low to high, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is possible.
Severe mood swings without an identifiable trigger may have some chemical component to them. Bipolar disorder is known to have a genetic element. Sometimes, mood issues can be addressed without medication. For many people, however, prescription medications are essential to prevent severe mood problems from interfering with their lives in profound ways.
Brittany, 25, presents herself for therapy complaining of “moodiness.” Sometimes she is so tired she doesn’t even get out of bed for 2 or 3 days. Other times, she feels so excited, she doesn’t know what to do with herself, and ends up drinking excessive amount of alcohol to go to sleep. Yet most of the time she feels fine. The therapist identifies the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and recommends a medication evaluation. Brittany does not want to take medications, however she agrees to try a small dosage at the recommendation of a psychiatrist. She finds her mood is more stable and she is able to return to a normal sleep schedule and cease abusing alcohol. She remains in therapy to work on the feelings of depression that still sometimes arise, and find they subside for the most part after several months of insight work.
David, 49, complains of mood swings. He is worried he might “be bipolar”, and has heard the illness gets worse with age. However, a review of his symptoms indicates a more mild moodiness, and the therapist begins to uncover with David his self-image, his spiritual beliefs, and the strengths of his relationships. Therapy work helps Dave manage his mood swings and they diminish in frequency and intensity over several months without the use of medication.
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Last updated: 09-30-2014