Mood Swing, ADD or Bi-Polar?

Mood Swing, ADD or Bi-Polar?

The holidays can be a tough time emotionally for many people. It is hands down the time of year I have the most people reach out to me about their depression and mood swings. Some even reach out on behalf of a spouse, partner or child. Many times part of our initial conversation includes a discussion about Bi Polar Spectrum. I should say that I’m not a clinical psychiatrist and therefore not licensed to diagnose Bi Polar, and I’ll also say that I encounter this disorder fairly often and have learned to recognize it. Bi Polar Spectrum is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as ADD.

I’m sharing this with you today in hopes that, if you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of this broad and unique spectrum, you’ll be encouraged to reach out for support because there is no need for you to ride this mood roller coaster alone. You can also be of GREAT service to your loved ones by recognizing the spectrum as those on the BPS are 15% more likely to commit suicide. This is my message of hope…there is help and you deserve to feel good.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDD) Bi Polar Spectrum affect nearly 4% of Americans in any given year and is increasing over the last few decades. An estimated 6 Million Americans are on the spectrum and this spectrum is more common in women and does run in families. This number is likely low as many cases are not diagnosed and many people are simply “tolerating” the cyclic changes in their thinking and behavior – often times making light of it by saying “I’m so ADD” or “I’m just in one of my moods.”

Some classic symptoms that can be associated with Bi Polar Spectrum include intermittent experience of the following:

  • Depressed or anxious mood (the depression is typically more apathetic than sad)
  • Increased talk, talking fast or pressured speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased energy, productivity or creativity
  • Hyper-anything including hypersexuality, hyper-religious beliefs, hyper-political opinions
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Grandiose ideas, plans or beliefs or delusions
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Risky behavior

Bi Polar Spectrum is often not recognized because we tend to think of it as only affecting moods and presenting as very extreme behavior. The truth is . . . we call it a “spectrum” for a reason. There are 2 “sides” or “poles” on the spectrum. One side is “increased or manic” and the other is “blah/apathetic or decreased.” Then there is the middle ground which feels and appears “normal” or neutral. Someone on the Bi Polar Spectrum can swing:

– From one pole ALL THE WAY to the other
– Moderately from one side of neutral to the other


– Only swing from neutral to one pole.

These swings can also be over the course of hours, days, weeks, months or even YEARS between the “swing”.

We tend to think of these swings as ONLY in mood, but the swings can affect energy levels, sleep patterns or even “productive or creative” behavior.

To further complicate the diagnosis, Bi Polar can often appear ADD like:

Racing thoughts
Fast talking or talking too much
Bouncing around from topic to topic

Here’s a few ways to distinguish between the two:

#1- People with ADD have a lot of thoughts and bounce from topic to topic but the SPEED of their thoughts and speech are about the same pace as non ADD people.

#2 – Those with ADD will talk “a lot” and in a disorganized way, however they can tolerate interruption and return to their point (those on Bi Polar Spectrum may become agitated by the interruption).

#3 – Those with ADD can have nervous ENERGY where as those on the BPS have periods of what can only be described as EUPHORIA.

Here are some questions you can answer or ask your loved one to gain more insight to the possibility of being on the Bi Polar Spectrum:

  1. Do your mood changes occur only when you skip meals or eat poorly, in winter, before your your menstrual period, or after other predictable triggers?
  2. Do your negative moods come and go somewhat unpredictably, and not always in reaction to an upsetting event?
  3. Do your moods vary quite a bit?
  4. Do your moods change during a single day, week, month or year MORE than 3 or 4 times?
  5. Over your lifetime, how many episodes of depression have you had?
  6. Do you have episodes of agitation?
  7. Do you have episodes of anger/irritability?
  8. Is your mental energy very high most of the time?
  9. Do you have periods of especially high energy?
  10. Do others say you talk so fast that they “can’t get words in edgewise”?
  11. Do you sometimes have periods when you feel: “high”? sleepless? your mind races? over-energized? manic? oversexed? very creative? unable to control your mood? overspend? ­­­­­
  12. Do others describe you as having any of the above symptoms?
  13. Have any of the above symptoms started, changed, or intensified after starting to take an antidepressant drug?
  14. Have you or any blood relative ever been diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder?

These questions are clearly not black and white. The key is noticing the cyclical nature of the appearance of the symptoms which can’t explained by triggers. The “manic” side of things can be thought of as acceleration.

If you suspect you are experiencing Bi Polar Spectrum symptoms or that a loved one is on the spectrum, I want you to know there is nothing to be ashamed of and you don’t have to continue feeling this way.

Reach out to a practitioner specializing in Bi Polar Spectrum for an initial consultation.

[Tweet “There is much that can be done to improve life experiences while on the Bi Polar Spectrum.”]

For more information on natural approaches, here’s a few really great resources:

Depression Free Naturally by Joan Mathews-Larsen
Natural Healing for Bi Polar Disorder by Eva Edelman
The Bi Polar Disorder Survival Guide by David J. Miklowitz

The more you know about Bi Polar Spectrum, the more you can help yourself and your loved ones.
You could literally be saving a life.


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