How does bipolar differ from just moodiness?

Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health
Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects a person’s ability to regulate their moods.  
When people ask me the difference between bipolar disorder and moodiness I ask three questions:
1. Is the mood attached to an event?
2. Is the mood a reasonable reaction to an event?
3. Does the mood significantly and negatively affective personal and professional relationships?
I've found that these three questions weed out moodiness pretty quickly. The following explains the three questions:
1. It's not hard to see why a person is moody- it may be their personality such as- she's just a negative person. Or a reaction to a real situation such as a divorce or loss of a job.  People with bipolar can get very upset when nothing is going on- even if they are doing well. They can be ok for weeks and then in a mood swing for no apparent reason. It's very confusing. This is more often bipolar than moodiness.
2. A person who is upset because the traffic is driving them crazy is having a normal reaction to an event. They may honk their horn or say- "I hate this traffic! I've got to leave work earlier!"
  If a person with bipolar gets in the car with irritation due to mild mania, they can be mad even during normal traffic. They will find something to fuel their anger. "These @#$@#  cars are just sitting here.  Did you see that guy cut me off? What a bunch of morons!"  The person may then push their car really close to someone or actually get out of the car and start a fight. That is a bipolar mood swing and NOT moodiness.
3. Moodiness can upset people- especially is someone is always complaining, but people deal with it. A person with a cheerful mood all of the time is seen as a positive in people's lives.
People who have mood swings- especially with untreated bipolar disorder ALWAYS have relationship problems either personally or at work. This is an illness that leads to confusion, frustration and stress for the person on the other side of the mood swing.
The next time you wonder if it’s moodiness or a mood swing, you now have three questions you can ask to get your answer!
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Bipolar disorder is more than just the moodiness you might hear average women complaining about around that time of the month. Bipolar disorder involves dramatic and unusual shifts in mood that can cause a change in your behavior. When your behavior changes so suddenly and drastically, it can make it hard for you to keep a job or perform routine activities, not to mention have stable relationships with family, friends, or significant others.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.