Managing Bipolar Disorder: How to Chart Your Mood

Medical Reviewer

Many people with bipolar want to know more about their moods.  This may stem from general interest, or they may have been encouraged to monitor them.  One tool available for this is the daily mood chart. For example, you may have seen or read about the new Mood 24/7 mobile tool.

Daily mood charts provide a way to monitor mood over time, and in so doing, help to prevent relapse. Of course there are different ways to achieve roughly similar objectives and some people prefer their own systems. However, if you aren't used to monitoring your moods a chart is a useful starting point. In general, you need a system that monitors your mood, your triggers, warning signs, symptoms and your current treatment.

Within the scope of mood, a chart should probably include a way to measure anxiety, irritability, psychotic symptoms, and impulses. Weight and sleep changes are also useful things to monitor. If you are receiving treatment for bipolar there's a good chance you've already been given, or offered a daily mood chart. If not, there are lots to choose from and many are freely available online to download.

People I've worked with often like a month-to-view chart, although some prefer a more narrative approach within a diary format. From my perspective the chart approach allows quite a lot of information to be recorded and changes are sometimes easier to spot than say a diary book approach. Tracking important symptoms such as a change in sleep pattern or suicidal impulses can be extremely helpful in prompting you to seek help before things worsen.

Because no two people are alike it stands to reason that no two people with bipolar are alike either. For this reason it can take a little time to feel comfortable with using a daily mood chart. At first, some people don't know whether to trust their own ability to self-monitor and self-rate. If they are happy is that normal or is it something else? Some people with bipolar can sense a clear difference in their moods while for others their 'normal mood' may carry residual symptoms or be affected by the ups and downs of everyday life. Wellness, in this context, hinges on the fact that your sense of wellbeing isn't associated with long-term changes in sleeping, eating, or activity levels. A barometer of wellness may also the fact that others aren't concerned about your mood. For a mood chart to work it's important you have a sense of what constitutes 'normal' for you.

One of the most common problems with a daily mood chart is finding the motivation to complete it. Some charts are quite detailed and the business of reflecting over every aspect of your mood can be irritating for some and daunting for others. It's also yet another reminder of bipolar. If you find yourself feeling this way, why not select the parts you feel might be more significant? For example, if you're taking new medication, or you think your sleep pattern isn't all it might be, this could be the main focus of attention.

Do you use a daily mood chart? Is it one you've devised or one that has been recommended - or have you tried and tested a few? What's your view of the pro's and con's?