Watch the Mood Waves

mood wavesOne of the best ways of helping people MoodSurfing successfully is to look closely at the shape of their mood waves.

Often when we talk to someone about this idea they are perplexed.

Waves are waves right? If you have a depression wave then you should do one thing and if you have a manic wave you do something else.

But in fact there are patterns to waves that allow us to predict the most helpful approaches to extreme waves.

For instance, there are some people whose depression almost always gradually develops and then there is a rapid “switch” into mania which slowly resolves. This type of bipolar is called DMI and it tells you that the key to successfully managing mood waves is likely to be contained in approaches to preventing depression from getting too deep.

I am reminded when talking to folks with DMI of the secret passageways of a castle. It is as though the person gets caught in the dungeons of the castle and then discovers the magic passageway up a spiral staircase and all the way to the top of the castle tower.

By contrast, there are folks whose mania gradually develops and then crashes into depression. This type of bipolar is called MDI. I think of this as the “Icarus” type of bipolar. Like Icarus from classical mythology, the problem here is that the person goes too “high” or too close to the sun and then crashes. For these people the key to successful moodsurfing lies in dealing better with the manic phase.

I strongly encourage folks with MDI to track their mood waves. Until they do so it is almost impossible to convince them that the way to avoid the terrible crash into despair is to not fly so close to the sun with their manic moods. After they keep a mood log I can generally point out the evidence that if they want to stay out of depression, they have to avoid flying too high…