Many people experience shifts in mood from time to time. More intense mood shifts may indicate bipolar disorder, and require treatment.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which you may deal with shifts in mood that cause mood episodes. The mood episodes can be classified as hypomanic, manic, or depressive episodes. These mood shifts can cause difficulty in school, work, or relationships.

Mood shifts are a symptom of bipolar disorder but may also be experienced by people with other mental health conditions or as a stand-alone symptom.

Mood shifts, as a part of bipolar disorder, can be overwhelming and challenging to deal with. If you’re experiencing extremes in mood, you may consider seeking treatment.

It’s not unusual to experience sudden shifts in moods occasionally. This occurs when we may feel an emotion and suddenly our mood changes to another emotion. An extreme change in mood may also be a sign of bipolar disorder.

The difference between an occasional mood shift and bipolar disorder has to do with the frequency, duration, and intensity of the mood shift.

Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience more frequent shifts in mood, more intense highs, and more intense lows. It may also last longer than someone who has occasional shifts in mood.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by manic, hypomanic, and sometimes depressive episodes. There are different signs and symptoms to look out for during each mood episode.

Depressive symptoms

  • suicidal thoughts, plans, and intent
  • psychosocial challenges
  • lack of ability to feel pleasure
  • difficulty making decisions
  • trouble focusing or concentrating on tasks
  • forgetting things easily
  • difficulty learning new things
  • insomnia
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • feelings of guilt
  • weight loss
  • thoughts of death
  • psychomotor agitation
  • psychomotor impairment

Mania symptoms

A 2023 overview of mania indicates that mania must last at least one week and causes challenges in school, occupational, or social functioning. The authors indicate the following signs of mania:

  • rapid speech
  • racing thoughts
  • distractibility
  • irritability
  • decreased need for sleep
  • elevated or expansive mood
  • grandiosity
  • increase in goal-directed activity
  • impulsivity
  • mood lability
  • agitation
  • engaging with multiple sex partners
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • spending money excessively
  • harm to self or others
  • damaging property
  • traveling impulsively
  • starting businesses unprepared

Hypomania has the same symptoms as mania, but they aren’t to the extent that they cause problems with social or occupational functioning. A hypomanic episode also must include symptoms for four days compared to the one week required for mania.

If you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts, please seek professional support immediately.

Calling or texting a crisis helpline will connect you with a trained counselor 24/7, any day of the year, completely free of charge:

If you’re living with bipolar disorder, there are several treatment options available. Most treatment options involve a combination of medication and psychosocial interventions, which are supported by 2017 clinical practice guidelines for managing bipolar disorder.

Medication options for bipolar disorder include:

Some adjunctive medications may also be needed to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as:

  • anticholinergics
  • benzodiazepines

In addition, the following somatic treatments can be helpful for symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Psychosocial interventions, including the following, can help treat bipolar disorder:

If you’re seeking treatment for bipolar disorder, consider discussing your options with a medical or mental health professional. You can find a therapist or doctor near you using the FindCare Tool.

If you have sudden extreme changes in your mood, there are some things you can do to help yourself cope. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or experience occasional shifts in mood, there are healthy ways to manage your mood.

Research indicates that these self-management tips can help you cope with shifts in mood:

  • Follow a healthy diet: Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help improve mood and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
  • Consider a regular exercise routine: Exercise has protective effects on mood. It can make you feel better due to the endorphins that are released.
  • Take your medications regularly: If you have been prescribed medication to help your mood, following your medication regimen can improve your mood and help balance the mood shifts.
  • Get adequate sleep: Sleep is linked to mood, and going days without sleep, as some people do during manic or hypomanic episodes, can cause hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia.
  • Consider peer support: Peer support can help you relate to others with similar experiences and provide tips for managing bipolar disorder or mood shifts.

Mood shifts can occur outside of bipolar disorder or as a result of substance use or other mental health conditions. Learning how to manage extreme changes in mood can improve your overall quality of life.

Sudden mood shifts are a symptom of bipolar disorder, but many people experience sudden shifts in mood from time to time.

The difference between a typical and extreme mood shift often involves the shifts’ duration, frequency, and intensity. The more extreme shifts in mood may indicate bipolar disorder.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may experience hypomanic, manic, or depressive mood states.

These states can cause difficulties in daily life and make it hard to do your job, socialize, or go to school. There are several treatment options available if you have bipolar disorder.

If you’re considering seeing a mental health professional for treatment of bipolar disorder, you can use Psych Central’s Find a Therapist Resource.

For additional support and resources about bipolar disorder, you can visit the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.