Erratic mood swings

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: Hi. I hope my question is appropriate for this site. See, for the better part of 4 years i have experienced erratic mood swings. I can wake up in the morning in a fairly ok mood, but say one thing happens that is slightly sad, and immediately i am in a depressive swing for 3 or 4 days. I have researched mental disorders and this seems to be fairly close to Bipolar disorder. However, everything i’ve read on Bipolar disorder says that the mood swings last for much longer periods of time. Mine are changing every 2 to 3 days. Simply, I am wondering if what i experience qualifies as Bipolar disorder and if so, should i see a doctor?
I also have other symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, i.e: the increase in sexual appetite, thoughts of death(not necessarily suicide, just the act of dying) and a few others. But the above question is really the only area I am confused about.

A: By all means, see a doctor. You’ve been suffering with this since you were 14! That’s much too long, in my opinion, to be sitting with the anxiety. My guess is that you either didn’t understand that what you were experiencing was maybe different from normal teen issues or you didn’t want to involve or worry your parents. Now that you are old enough to see a doctor without parental involvement, please do.

It’s indeed possible that you have some kind of bipolar disorder. There is such a thing as “rapid cycling.” But it’s also possible that there is something medical going on like a vitamin deficiency or a thyroid problem. So start with your PCP or the college health services. Get a complete and thorough physical exam. If everything checks out there, then ask for a referral to your mental health services for an evaluation.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie




Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Sep 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Erratic mood swings. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 23, 2014, from