What's the difference between Bipolar and being moody?

Jessica Kennedy, Mental Health America

It’s a common misconception that someone who has abrupt mood swings between sadness and happiness has bipolar disorder.

There are multiple types of bipolar disorder, but one thing they have in common is that the shifts between depression, mania, or hypomania occur over long periods of time. Episodes of mania and depression last for weeks or months, not just days. And people often experience long periods of time between episodes with no symptoms at all.

However, people with bipolar disorder can experience what is called a “mixed state” or bipolar “with mixed features.” What that means is someone is experiencing both depression and mania (or hypomania, which is not as severe as mania) at the same time or in rapid succession. This is different from a fully depressed or fully manic episode.

Being moody is different. People who are moody shift between those emotions all the time. This can be because they are under a lot of stress or they are naturally prone to emotional reactions. It could also be a sign that someone has a hard time regulating their emotions or has another underlying condition, either mental or physical. Hormones can also cause someone to act moody—it’s observable in pregnant women (but best not to point it out to them.)

If you’re asking because you feel like your emotions are zigzagging all over the place, go ahead and try the bipolar screen, but don’t be surprised if the result is negative.

Regardless, if you feel like you’re being tugged into many directions emotionally, it’s a good idea to talk to someone.

It’s possible for someone to have bipolar disorder and be moody, too.

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