Intense Moodiness and Depression

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have been having intense periods of feeling sad and angry. I do not remember exactly when this all started, but I have been noticing it more and more frequently.

I have been experiencing periods of intense sadness, anger, and feelings of worthlessness that last about a week or so before disappearing for about the same amount of time, before they appear again. During these episodes I lash out at my boyfriend, myself, my family, and I don’t study or do any of my assignments, or feel like doing anything. I am currently experiencing one of these episodes as I write this.

I have always had problems with these kinds of feelings that stem back into high school. But I have never felt that I am “allowed” to feel depressed. I have told my parents about the way I feel before, and they have laughed at me, and once when I visited the councellor and my school during a depressive episode she said that “she was dissapointed in me”. I also feel like I am not allowed to be depressed as I am a nursing student. Nurses aren’t supposed to feel like this.

I am trying to make sense of what I feel but the “come and go” nature of what I feel makes me think that I am just overreactng and being melodramatic. But the intensity of these feelings, and the fact that it is impacting my relationship with my boyfriend is making me really worried. I am pushing him away by starting fights, misinterpreting what he says to me as insults and cancelling dates.

I am really confused as to what is going on. All I know is that I just don’t feel right, and I want it to stop so I can be normal and get on with my life.

A. Depression may be a realistic possibility. Another consideration is bipolar disorder. You detailed the significant depression that you feel during the mood swings but you did not describe how you feel in the absence of depression. What is it like when you’re not depressed? Are you relatively happy?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of depression and mania. Mania symptoms include euphoria, increased energy, heightened sex drive and impulsivity. Many people fail to report symptoms of mania because they don’t believe it’s abnormal. Individuals who experience mania describe this state of mind as feeling very good. Mania may feel good but it’s unhealthy. Extremes in mood are a sign of emotional instability and possibly a mood disorder.

Your mood swings are interfering with your life to a significant degree. Untreated depression and bipolar disorder both have serious consequences.

The best way to approach this situation is to be evaluated by a mental health professional. They may be able to identify what, if any, disorder you have.

With regard to bipolar disorder, it is particularly important to be correctly diagnosed. Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression. Misdiagnosis has consequences. The main consequence is receiving the wrong treatment. A specific concern is being prescribed the incorrect medication. Some antidepressant medications can induce mania among those at risk for bipolar disorder. You should be evaluated for both depression and bipolar disorder.

I would recommend psychotherapy and perhaps medication. These treatments could help you deal with mood swings. Therapy could help you to build healthier interpersonal relationships and skills.

I’m sorry that you have faced roadblocks in your efforts to receive treatment. Fortunately, as an adult you have the choice and opportunity to enter treatment, even if other people don’t agree. You are free to make your own decisions. You recognize that something is wrong and it is interfering with your happiness. This is proof that treatment is necessary. Here is a website that may help you find a therapist in your community.

I wish you well. Thank you for your question.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 May 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Intense Moodiness and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/31/intense-moodiness-and-depression/