What's the difference between bipolar and being moody?

A lot of the time when people say someone is “bipolar,” they really mean “moody.” Moody people can be happy one minute and sad the next. Sometimes they just change their mind a lot. It’s normal to experience ups and downs, especially if something has happened to make you feel happy or sad. Some people are more moody than others, or just more open about their feelings—and that’s okay. But if your mood swings start to get in the way of your daily life, you might wonder if you actually have bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects about 3% of adults in the United States. It's not the same as being moody. People with bipolar disorder have alternating episodes of mania and depression. Mania is a period of extreme high energy or mood. People often feel very excited during a manic episode and make impulsive decisions. Depression is pretty much the opposite—low energy, with feelings of sadness or despair. Stress can trigger one of these episodes, but often the shift happens without any clear explanation.

Manic and depressive episodes typically last several weeks. If your moods are changing drastically from day to day, that’s usually not a sign of bipolar disorder. (But it is possible to have bipolar disorder and be moody.)

If you think you might have bipolar disorder, start by taking our free bipolar test. If the result is negative (unlikely to have bipolar disorder) and you still feel like moodiness is a problem for you, try taking some of our other tests, like the ones for depression and anxiety.

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