The history of mood charting
The history goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century, to a German psychiatrist Dr. Emil Kraepelin (and no, I can’t pronounce his name either :)). Photo credit: public domain.
He worked with color codes to chart episodes on a monthly basis. The National Institute of Mental Health – Life Chart Methodology ~ NIMH-LCM™ (grief, what a mouth full and I haven’t even said anything yet!) was built on Dr. Emil’s developed chart.
Dr. Kraepelin’s early studies found that patients often undergo a progressive increase in cycle frequency, or a decrease in the well interval between episodes; that initial episodes were often triggered by external events, but later episodes emerged spontaneously; and that affective illness tended to continue in families (genetic vulnerability). (Source)
Two studies, one conducted in 1997 and one in 2000, proved the validity and reliability of the use of the NIMH-LCM™.
What to chart?
In no particular order:
- Sleep patterns – how many hours slept; time we went to bed & got up; how well or fitful we slept.
- Stressful situations – be it related to family, work, study etc.: it has impact on our mood.
- Severity of mood – can be difficult at first; at least I found it hard how to compare and compare to what, but eventually when I kept on it I developed a feel for it.
- Medication use – particularly revealing when changing dosage or meds.
- Highest and lowest mood of the day.
- Exercise (or for me: the lack thereof…) – and the effect on our mood.
- Physical health – what influence does being physically well / unwell have on our mood?
- Energy levels – could it show a possible upcoming mood change?
- For women: hormonal imbalances during our period and the influence on our mood.
- Side effects of our meds.
- Weight – jotting it down once at a certain day of the month.
- Therapy / Counseling sessions.
- Full moon – make a note of when the moon is full that month.
- Life / daily events – the good, the better, the bad and the ugly (arguments; disappointments; fun happenings; holidays etc.)
- Alcohol consumption.
By no means do you need to chart the whole list. Find what you need, make your own chart, use existing charts (printed or online). In short: find what works for you!
- To identify early warning signs – like sleeplessness or too much sleeping. (A sure sign for me that something is up! Or down.)
- To manage our illness more successfully – knowledge of how we react to life’s daily challenges is power!!
- For medication management – with the numerous meds available these days, it’s vital to know how we respond to whichever med(s) we are prescribed.
- To discover patterns otherwise difficult to detect.
- Because we think that we remember well, but the truth is: we don’t.
- It shows our progress – and when we deserve a slap on our shoulders!!
- Ultimately because it helps to keep ourselves well – by understanding which aspects of life interfere with our moods
Keeping a daily journal is the only way to find out what is really going on in our lives in relation to our moods. It is important to know what influences our moods and what in turn is influenced by our moods. Besides, it gives us more reliable and useful information for us as well as our doctors / therapists / counselors.
If you find it difficult to use, have initially a family member or good friend help you. You might gain some valuable info that you yourself don’t see or notice.
When a good friend of mine helped me, she told me she noticed that every time I was getting hypo manic I started to ‘talk’ with my hands and my eyes were getting big. Signs that were impossible for me to ‘see’. Now I know, so I pay attention to these pointers.
Once we have more insight, when necessary we can get help faster. Consequently, we might not dip as low or go as high as before. Wouldn’t that be cool?!
To end I quote Stephen C. Murray :
Mood charting is a tool and like all tools it depends on both the quality of the tool and the skill of the person using it. If you have not used a mood chart you should give it a try to see if it helps with your therapy. The key to mood charting is in doing it daily, stay with a chart for a couple of months and see if it helps.
For more information on mood charts / charting:
Bipolar Network News – The latest news on bipolar disorder research and treatment.
Articles from Stephen C. Murray – Executive Director of the Cheryl T. Herman Foundation. The foundation promotes treatment, education and understanding for Mood Disorders.
MoodChart – MoodChart was developed by Dan Lieberman and Fred Goodwin, who are psychiatrists at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
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