I’m a 19 year old female and have been experiencing issues with my mood. I’ve always been a very emotional and sensitive person but recently it’s gotten out of control. I describe it like a light switch, it’s as if my mood is controlled by someone that is switching on and off a light switch. I can go from happy and excited to depressed to hostile and angry, without any warning. I become self-destructive, often trying to get my boyfriend to break up with me, then an hour later I’ll be crying and saying sorry. When I get in these moods it is almost impossible to get me out of them. I know he hates this and he wants me to get help. I am in school to be a child and youth care counsellor so part of my program is learning about mental health issues. From what I know about bipolar disorder I don’t think that it is that extreme. I just want to find out if there was anything like bipolar but is less extreme that could fit what I have been feeling.

A: Thank you so much for writing and for being so responsible. It’s important to address this problem both for yourself and for your future. Children need a counselor who is stable!

Instead of exploring diagnoses on the Internet, you really need to get some expert advice. The first stop should be with your physician. Although it is true that mood lability can be due to bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, it can also be caused by several medical conditions. You want to be sure you aren’t missing an undiagnosed medical problem. Thyroid disease, for example, can cause significant changes in mood.

If you are fine medically, then it’s important to have a mental health assessment. What you are describing may be symptoms of depression or anxiety, ADHD, or cyclothymia, to name only a few possibilities. If you in fact have a diagnosable mental illness, the mental health professional will offer you suggestions for what to do about it.

The mood changes you are describing sound very painful and upsetting. Please take care of yourself and get the help you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie