Mood Crystal Ball

Bipolar mood swings can be predicted

(RxWiki News) If you're thinking dark thoughts, your mood isn't likely to be very bright. If you're behaving in a way that's not very uplifting, you probably aren't going to feel good. And if you think can't control your moods, well chances are - you can't.

In a study recently published, researchers found that the future mood swings of people with bipolar disorder can be predicted by how they are currently thinking and behaving. In addition, patients' beliefs about their moodiness can also impact moods.

Psychologists from the Universities of Manchester and Lancaster say their findings can be used to enhance talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to more effectively treat the disorder.

"Thoughts, actions and beliefs can predict future bipolar mood swings."

People with bipolar live with extreme mood swings that, like a pendulum, take them from great emotional highs to the depths of depression.

However, these mood swings have been thought to be caused by a person's genes and biology rather than their own thoughts and actions.

“Individuals who believed extreme things about their moods – for example that their moods were completely out of their own control or that they had to keep active all the time to prevent becoming a failure – developed more mood problems in a month's time,” said lead investigator, Dr. Warren Mansell of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences.

“In contrast, people with bipolar disorder who could let their moods pass as a normal reaction to stress or knew they could manage their mood, fared well a month later.

These findings are encouraging for talking therapies – such as CBT – that aim to help patients to talk about their moods and change their thinking about them,” Mansell said.

Mansell and colleagues at The University of Manchester are developing a new type of CBT they're calling "Think Effectively About Mood Swings" (TEAMS).

The therapy encourages patients to accept and manage a range of normal emotions – like joy, anger and fear. And while focusing on current problems, such as depression, anxiety and irritability, TEAMS helps patients to set goals for their lives as a whole.

Findings from this study will be published in the American Psychological Association journal, Psychological Assessment.

The Study

  • Researchers followed 50 people with bipolar disorder for a month
  • Results showed that patients’ thinking and behavior predicted their future mood swings even when their medical history had been accounted for
  • Researchers will use the TEAMS approach to follow up their current findings with a larger study that identifies who relapses and who heads towards recovery in the long term
Review Date: 
May 3, 2011