Moods swinging violently from hysterical to listless

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I have very little memory of how I behave from day to day with no control of my mood swings.

As a background, I was made redundant almost 4 months ago, and have since been finding it very hard to find another job. At around 19 (I am now 25) I was diagnosed with depression, and placed on medication, the dose of which went up for some time. I attempted suicide twice, but seemed to be over this from around the age of 22, and have had little trouble with it since, and other difficult periods in my life (similar to the stage I am at now) have not caused my moods to change so. I live with my boyfriend of several years, who has tried quite hard to deal with my moods, but is understandably now suggesting that I get some kind of professional help.

Recently, I have found myself to spend much of my time feeling helpless, listless, unwilling to leave the house, finding it difficult to make simple phone calls etc. I spend a lot of time alone during the day, and understand from my previous episode of depression, that these are classic symptoms. However, unlike during my previous experiences with depression, my moods tend to vary dramatically between this “depression”, and hysteria, frightening anger, hyperactivity and fitful tears. None of this I have any control over. I have considered the possibility of a mood disorder, but my more “manic” episodes do not last for more than a few hours at a time, and I do not tend to spend wildly, or engage in outrageous behaviour with strangers- I am still quite insular. My hysteria is primarily aimed at my boyfriend and close friends and family. I also have prolonged periods of “normal” feeling and behaviour, thankfully, where I can look back at my actions, and see how irrationally I have behaved.

One major concern, and a huge cause of disharmony in our lives, is that I seem to have little or no lasting memory of how I have either felt or behaved. My boyfriend will suggest that I have been behaving hysterically for 5 of the last 7 days, and I will only remember perhaps one incident, and almost never remember what it was that caused the argument (which is the outcome of many of my irrational moments). I have been insisting for some time that my boyfriend must have been making up some of these arguments, or that he must be doing something, something I have been unable to put my finger on, in order to enrage me so. His constant insistence that he’d “done nothing wrong” seemed to upset me more, as I could not believe that I was reacting like this without provocation. Of course, my rational side realizes that he doesn’t have any reason to make me feel like I am insane by making this up.

When I am in one of these hysterical moods, I am always fully confident that I am right- that whatever wild point I’m making is correct.

I am still not sure whether I am depressed, but for some reason behaving like a spoiled, crazy toddler, or if there is something more wrong? I would like to get help, but it takes so long in the UK, and when hysterical, can’t organise myself to get to an appointment, and when miserable, am very reluctant to leave the house, or even call to make an appointment.

A: I am sorry that you are feeling so unsteady emotionally. The mood swings sound like they are very disregulating and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Three things jump out at me right away. The first is that you seem to have a boyfriend in your life that really cares about you and wants you to feel better. This is a very good thing, and I would draw on this relationship to help you get to a better place. I would ask him to help you by planning a time for him to be with you to make the call. I do know that in the UK the appointments can take time, but I also know that nothing will happen if we don’t get one nudged onto the menu. Ask him to help you make the call.

Secondly, I would make the call for a psychiatrist to do the evalation because my guess is that you want someone with experience in prescribing medicine for mood swings. Naturally I am a proponent of talk therapy, but my guess is that to make the kind of changes you want both medicine and therapy will be necessary.

Finally, I would start keeping a journal. A brief daily journal that would allow you to write down both what has happened (this will help with your memory,) and what your feelings are –so the psychiatrist might be able to discern if there is a cycle or a pattern to your mood swings.

I think if you take these steps you may be able to find out what is underneath all of this.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Dec 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Moods swinging violently from hysterical to listless. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/12/09/moods-swinging-violently-from-hysterical-to-listless/