Tracking Bipolar Mood Swings
One of the most difficult parts of having bipolar disorder is knowing how to prevent and manage mood swings.
Although mood cycles vary from person to person, most people with bipolar are profoundly aware of how hard it is to manage and control mania and depression.
The best way to deal with bipolar mood swings is to get treatment. However, hypomania, mania, and depression are not completely preventable.
Even with medication and good health habits, mood swings still occur.
Before the tech age, people with bipolar disorder relied on print notebooks and drawn charts only to record their moods for themselves and their clinicians.
This is still a viable way to track both mood swings and how environment and health affect the outcome of one’s course of illness.
For those that are computer and mobile device-savvy, however, there are a multitude of tools available at your fingertips.
Now there are thousands of mood tracking systems available through software purchases and the Internet.
When I was diagnosed, I was told it was important to track my moods.
It’s one thing to be told this–but how do we do it? And how do we sustain it over a long period of time?
One of the toughest parts of mood tracking is keeping it up long-term.
That is when valuable data starts to emerge.
Here are some of the mood trackers I’ve tried so far. Which ones have you used?
This was my very first mood tracking system. I used it even before my bipolar diagnosis.
It was recommended to me by my therapist a few years ago, and at the time, it was one of the most popular mood tracking systems online.
Mood Tracker allows you to track your daily mood level, hours of sleep, and medication, and the data appears in a graphical format.
While there are much more sophisticated mood tracking tools available on the market, Mood Tracker is time tested and easy to read, with no unnecessary frills.
A perk is the ability to share data directly with your clinician via email.
There are countless mood tracking apps available on the Android market. I downloaded eMoods several months ago to test its effectiveness.
It is definitely handy to access a mood tracker via mobile phone.
In our busy lives, we often forget to go to our computer or mood notebook and track our moods every day.
While convenient, this app did not work for me. It was too hard to decipher, yet too basic to glean any useful information from.
To me, it might be able to serve as a backup when I cannot log information on my laptop. However, to maintain accurate charts and data reports, it is essential to inevitably transfer the data from the app to the main mood tracking system.
This is, by far, the best mood tracker I have found. Suggested by a Her Bipolar Life reader, and researched in one of my earlier articles, this one was somehow flying under my radar.
Optimism Online is comprehensive and intelligent. Its easy-to-use, multifaceted dashboard allows you to record, chart, isolate, and plan:
The Record section allows you to log everything from the basic doctor’s office information like your mood rating and the hours you slept the night before, to the overlooked but important data about your daily triggers, symptoms, daily exercise information, and what strategies helped you stay well.
Charts allow you to break down the information into easy-to-read graphics for you and your treatment team.
Reports give you straight forward data-driven documents to review and print. You can also isolate and study mood swing patterns.
Finally, Plan allows you to glean important information from the data to drive your future success.
The Bottom Line: Mood Tracking is Much Needed
I’ve learned from experience that trying to track my moods and symptom trends in my head is impossible. There is literally no way to manage bipolar mood swings effectively without putting work into it.
If you are a mood tracking beginner, don’t get discouraged. It may take a moment to find the right method for you. If you are a hard copy type of person, you can find printable Excel spreadsheets and Word documents online to mood track by hand.
If you prefer software, there are an abundance of tools to test.
Everyone is different, so a mood tracking strategy that works for one person may not work for another.
As with any chronic condition, getting and staying well takes work and persistence.
Finding an easy-to-use mood tracking system that you will stick with is a great way to take control of your triggers and symptoms.
Do you track your moods?
Dawkins, K. (2013). Tracking Bipolar Mood Swings. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-life/2013/12/tracking-bipolar-mood-swings/