Mood Tracking for Bipolar Disorder – Why Track Your Mood? (1/2)
Ask a Bipolar: What about mood charting?
Most doctors (mostly psychiatrists) will ask you to track your mood if you have a mood disorder like bipolar disorder or depression. And while most people (psychiatrists and patients) would agree mood tracking is good, most people would also admit to not doing it.
I understand why mood tracking doesn’t get done. It’s like a homework assignment when you’re already working full-time. You just happen to be working full-time at being crazy. Homework tends to get left in the book bag.
However, there are easy, painless, simple ways to track your mood that can offer real benefits. Sixty seconds a day. Promise.
What is Mood Tracking?
Mood tracking is pretty simple. Mood tracking is just a way of writing down various aspects of your mood and mental illness symptoms on a daily basis to look for trends.
Mood tracking attempts to look for variables that affect a mental illness like bipolar disorder or depression. You generally want the results in a graph so it’s easier to see mood trending.
Why Track Your Mood in Depression or Bipolar?
Except it isn’t. At least not in the most helpful sense. Telling your psychiatrist what your mood is when you’re sitting in front of him might be useful, but that’s only one tiny data point and these was probably a month between that answer and your last appointment. You can’t see trends when you track moods by months unless they absolutely smack you in the face.
People are terrible at remembering mood. This is pretty much what happens:
“What was your mood last week?”
“Um, mostly OK, I guess.” Or you might say, “Depressed.”
This is not accurate mood reporting. In reality, everyone’s mood fluctuates to some degree. You were more depressed on Thursday because they didn’t air a new episode of Burn Notice. You had a visitor that lifted your mood a little for two days. That sort of thing.
Benefits of Mood Tracking
By tracking your moods for depression or bipolar disorder (or any mental illness, really), you can find:
- How changes in medication are affecting you
- How monthly hormonal changes (for women) are affecting your mood
- The impact of lifestyle changes on mood
- How life events affect your mood
- How stress affects mood
- How sleep impacts mood
- Correlates to your physical health
- How season changes impact mood
And about a million other things. Not to mention the fact you will have a record of your mood (and hopefully side effects) and when some future doctor asks how you reacted to med X from two years ago, you’ll have the answer. (Yes, an endless frustrating reality.)
How to Track Your Mood in 60 Seconds
So, have I sold you on mood-tracking? Good. In part two I’ll talk about how to track your mood, what to track, how to remember to track your mood and I how I track my mood in 60 seconds a day.