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I'm admittedly moody. Do I need to see a shrink?

The question:

I am admittedly a moody person – I can go from joyous to grumpy in a matter of hours without any real reasons. My wife recently sat me down and addressed this: she thinks it’s a sign of a mental disorder. Can’t someone just ‘be moody’? Do I really need to see a shrink?


The answer:

Great question. Changes in mood or emotional states are a normal part of the human experience for all of us. There are very adaptive reasons we experience a range of mood states – both those that feel positive, as well as those that may feel negative. Our emotions serve a motivating function, and they can communicate important things to both ourselves and to others around us about experiences we are dealing with.


A number of factors can impact our mood: overall life situations, current stressors, or the amount of sleep we have had, to just name a few. Certainly there are also individual differences in personalities – where some of us tend to be happier or more even-keeled regardless of what is going on around us, others are more susceptible to more frequent shifts in their mood.


So, the simple answer is that yes – sometimes people can just “be moody”.


That said, frequent changes in mood can sometimes be a sign of a more serious psychological health condition that needs attention (such as a depression, an anxiety disorder, or a personality disorder). Other times, moodiness may warrant attention even if there is no underlying clinical condition.


There are a few situations in which seeking some additional assistance may be warranted:


1) If the mood issues are creating some distress or negative impact in terms of your happiness, enjoyment, or overall quality of life;


2) If the mood issues are significant impacting other relationships in your life (e.g., with friends, your partner, or other family); or


3) If the mood issues are impacting your ability to effectively carry out other important responsibilities in your life, such as your ability to do your job or your ability to parent.


You describe the changes in terms of extremes – “joyous” to “grumpy” with no reason can be completely normal for most of us on occasion. Now, if these changes are occurring on a regular basis and are consistently unpredictable it may be helpful to understand why.


Certainly moods can sometimes change without any real reason, but often there are contributors (such as our stress levels, behaviours, or ways we are thinking) that can be the culprit.


I would also pay attention to the fact that your wife is raising this as an issue – irrespective of whether there is or is not any underlying psychological condition, your mood changes seem to be having an impact on the quality of your marital relationship, and it would be helpful to understand why or how this is happening.


This doesn’t mean that you are fully to blame, but any time any of our behaviours are impacting our partner it is important to try to work to collectively solve issues in a way that the overall quality of the relationship may be enhanced.


Ask your wife how she is impacted by your admitted moodiness, and what you (and she) can both do that may work to improve things for both of you. You may find an initial consultation session with a professional who has expertise in couples/relationship issues may be helpful for both of you.

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