Changes in mood can be a sign of depression, bipolar disorder, and other serious mood-related conditions. Nearly 1 in 10 people in the United States age 18 and older have a mood disorder. But mood swings can also be part of everyday life. How do you know if your changing mood is normal or if it’s a sign of a more serious problem?
Here are 5 important guidelines to keep in mind.
- Emotions are part of life. Happiness, sadness, fear, and anger are built into our brains and nervous systems. These emotions help us function in the world. Experiencing a variety of emotions does not mean you have a problem, and may, in fact, contribute to your overall mental and physical health.
- Emotions can provide direction. Emotions can provide clues to actions that we need to take. Being “moody” may be a sign that you feel threatened or uncomfortable with something you are doing at work or home. A child who is chronically angry may be reacting to family conflict at home or to being bullied at school. These reactions may have nothing to do with mental illness and may be calling attention to situations that need to be addressed.
- Emotions should not be causing damage in your life. While strong emotions can be normal, emotions that cause problems in your day-to-day living are cause for concern. Sadness is normal, but sadness that is so extreme that it causes you to stop doing things you used to enjoy could be a sign of depression. On the other hand, euphoria, or feeling intensely happy and “on top of the world,” is great; but feeling such an exaggerated, inflated kind of happiness that you spend all your savings in one shopping spree could be a sign of bipolar disorder.
- Emotions should come and go. Moods normally come and go over a period of hours or days. Sadness or hopelessness that lasts for two weeks or more could be a sign of depression. On the other hand, four days or more of feeling happy and full of energy in a way that is out of character could be a sign of bipolar disorder.
- Doctors will check to rule out other causes. When emotions are causing problems, a medical evaluation can help determine whether other causes, such as thyroid issues, nutrition problems, or other physical issues are involved. Emotions can also be affected by sleep patterns, changes in season, menstrual cycle, having a baby, and common life events. Evaluation by medical and mental health professionals is essential to determine whether you have a mood disorder and to guide treatment options.
Effective treatment is available for depression, bipolar disorder, and other emotional issues. But it is important to understand the cause for the problems before jumping to treatment. If emotions are causing a problem with work, school, relationships, finances, or quality of life, talk with your doctor about your concerns. He or she can evaluate medical concerns and can help you decide whether a conversation with a mental health professional is right for you.
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimen.
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