Anticipating Bipolar Moods -- The Bipolar Weather Report
It is very hard to anticipate bipolar moods and, in fact, many times it's impossible. But there are some life events that evoke bipolar moods that are predictable. Sometimes you can read the bipolar weather report. Read on for when you can likely anticipate bipolar moods.
What Bipolar Moods Are There to Anticipate?
Some people have moods that are very reactive. So, something in life will happen, and your mood will react to it in some way. For example, if you're cut off in traffic, perhaps you experience great anger. Mood reactivity is considered atypical in bipolar disorder and is more common in bipolar II than bipolar I.1
On the other hand, some people have moods that are very non-reactive. It can even be the case that a person can be so non-reactive that something dramatic can happen (like a breakup with a partner) and the person's mood barely reacts at all. I have found that when I'm in a deep depression, I fall into this category. Almost anything can happen and nothing can break the depression.
But no matter what kind of bipolar moods you tend to experience, anticipating some bipolar moods is possible when you know yourself.
I call the anticipated bipolar moods the bipolar weather report. Keep in mind that like the standard weather report, these aren't 100 percent accurate, but if you practice making them, they do get more accurate over time.
Anticipating a Depressed Bipolar Mood
Depression is the mood I can anticipate the best, probably because I'm the most familiar with it and I have it the most. At any given moment, I'm more likely to be depressed than anything else.
Nevertheless, there are specific times when I can anticipate this bipolar mood. For example:
- After a hypomanic episode, I know I will crash into bipolar depression.
- If I'm experiencing a "jumbled" (mixed) mood with symptoms from various states, I know part of that will always be a depressed mood at times.
- If I haven't slept well, I will normally be depressed the next day.
- If I spend too much time working/socializing/exercising I will generally pay for it with depression.
Anticipating a Hypomanic Bipolar Mood
It's harder for me to anticipate a hypomanic bipolar mood. There are two times that bipolar hypomania shows up in my bipolar weather report:
- When I'm very stressed out for a long period of time, I tend to ramp into hypomania (although, sometimes it might be a bipolar mixed or cycling mood).
- Transient bipolar hypomania often results when changing medications (sometimes this might be a mixed or cycling mood too).
So in these cases, the bipolar weather report is like hypomania with a chance of mixed or cycling mood.
Of course, in your case, when you experience depression, hypomania, mixed or cycling moods may be different.
Why Anticipating a Bipolar Mood Matters
Part of me hates knowing what's coming. Part of me hates looking at the bipolar weather report and seeing nothing but rain, thunder and lightning in the future. It's not a good feeling to know that pain is coming.
However, there are benefits to being able to anticipate a bipolar mood. For example:
- If I know hypomania is coming, I can try to tamp down the symptoms and use as-needed medication.
- If I know depression is coming, I can try to clear my schedule and make time to sleep and recuperate.
Also, knowing the bipolar weather report will help you better communicate with others about what you need. You can share your bipolar weather report with others. Like I said above, your weather report likely won't be 100 percent accurate, but that doesn't mean it isn't helpful.
So the next time you see the clouds gathering, or the sun starting to shine just a little too brightly, use anticipating bipolar moods to your advantage. Note your own bipolar weather report to help you and others get through the nastiness on the horizon.
- Peng, D et al, "Atypical Features and Bipolar Disorder." Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry. Jun. 25, 2016.
Tracy, N. (2019, April 8). Anticipating Bipolar Moods -- The Bipolar Weather Report, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2019/4/anticipating-bipolar-moods-the-bipolar-weather-report
Author: Natasha Tracy
I am working on this for a loved one, but right now it's much cruder and less nuanced than what you're describing--I highlight the days in a calendar with yellow or blue depending on whether the day was spent more active and productive or on the couch. We're trying to see if the cycling follows a predictable pattern. Not sure yet--but so far it seems like two weeks of being on the couch all the time, followed by maybe ten days that are okay and productive, and then the whole thing starts over. I'll have to try to start paying attention to possible reactivity to events. I do know of a few triggers...