Daily Patterns in Bipolar Moods

July 29, 2014 Natasha Tracy

In a traditional model of bipolar disorder, a mood episode (depression/mania/hypomania) lasts (untreated) for a prolonged period of time. Typically, an episode will last from weeks to months. In a traditional model, people with untreated bipolar disorder only experience three or fewer mood episodes per year.

To many people that actually sounds like a great blessing because, for many people, mood changes come far more rapidly. People who experience more than three mood episodes per year have what’s known as rapid cycling bipolar disorder. People who have moods that only last days have ultra-rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

And people whose bipolar moods last less than that? That’s known as ultradian cycling bipolar disorder.

Rapid Cycling Variants of Bipolar Disorder

Even though I said traditional bipolar disorder has few mood episodes per year, that doesn’t mean that rapid cycling variants of bipolar disorder are rare. It’s estimated that 10-20% of people with bipolar disorder rapid cycle. Women are more likely to rapid cycle than others.

There is some argument in ultradian cycling bipolar disorder whether the person is truly experiencing mood episodes or whether what they’re experiencing really constitutes a bipolar mixed mood episode. This is more a question of labelling than anything else.

Mood Cycle Patterns in Bipolar Disorder

Some people experience bipolar mood patterns on a predictable basis - some even daily. Learn more about daily bipolar mood patterns and how to handle them.Now, in all this cycling, there might be a pattern. Tracking your mood/symptoms is an excellent way to find the patterns to your own moods. (You may have to track you mood for months to see this pattern, though.) For example some people do experience certain moods in certain seasons, quite reliably. You may see patterns that happen monthly (perhaps corresponding to a menstrual cycle, for example) or on other timetables.

You might also notice patterns within mood episodes. For example, you may be in a depressive episode but your mood still cycles within that depressive episode through various severities of depression/euthymia ("normal"). This is what happens to me.

Daily Patterns in a Bipolar Mood

What I see is a daily pattern when I’m in a depression. When I wake up, I feel okay, for the time being. I also feel okay through breakfast and the first part of the workday. Say, until around 11 A.M. Around 11 A.M. that’s when things start to fall apart. It usually begins with anxiety that builds until I’m overwhelmed and can’t function. And by 4 P.M. I’m so depressed my brain no longer thinks rationally and by 6 P.M. I might even be suicidal.

This pattern varies in severity but is reliable.

People with bipolar disorder, actually, often see daily patterns in mood although it’s more common to see the aggressive depression in the morning rather than the evening. (I just have to be different.)

Handling Daily Patterns in Bipolar Moods

In the following video I share tips on how I work with the moods that swing dramatically throughout the day.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, July 29). Daily Patterns in Bipolar Moods, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 29 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

April, 19 2017 at 9:09 am

I have been diagnosed mixed bipolar, hypomanic. I hate this illness, but I have no choice but to deal with it. I was finally steady for about 8 months and spring hiit. I did not realize I would likely be at risk for an episode. I noticed the urgency begin. I became scared and called my p.doc. She upped my lamictil but I was still escalating and the bursting into tears an irritability kicked in. I do notice my energy is best in the morning and starts to lessen after 1 p.m. I have to plan not to do more than two major things a day . I study and ask questions continuously, yet so many things I don't understand. I know uncertainty and lack of a schedule or changes in schedules are my worst enemies. Unfortunately life isn't predictable. I grieve not having normal emotions and how it had an effect on all my life before 64. Others who do not have bipolar do NOT understand what it's like to live inside our heads which makes me feel isolated and alone . So many people think we should be able to " pull ourselves up by our bootstraps." Th;ey also do not understand why we cannot plan very far ahead, even a week ahead. I do not want to travel lest I get off routine and get triggered. And certainly not anywhere with a time change. I am lucky I have the money to deal with this chronic illness. I wish i had a few or even one friend with bipolar to discuss the frustrations with. We need support groups just for Bipolar and they need to be run by a psychiatrist. I get very uncomfortable reading things from people who are not on medications. That seems nuts to me and I don't even want to hear about it. . I see a cognitive behavioral therapist who helps me solve problems and my psychiatrist often. In between office visits can feel like years some weeks.

rebecca stevens
January, 23 2015 at 9:07 am

Hi, my name is becky I have been diagnosed with bipolr mixed for aprox. 18 years. The biggest thing for me was to except this was me, its not my fault, research it, understand it, take my medication and couseling has helped me very much. When in couseling if your not honest about your feelings and whats happening in your life it will do you no good do not I repeat do not hide your feeling to the professinals they are there to help you do all these things above. jut a little advise from the experice I have had with this disorder it can be very dangerous is my opinion if not handled correctly. good luck to all I really don't wish thius disorder on anyone not even my worst enemy its very serious

September, 13 2014 at 11:50 am

Given the rapid shifting of your moods, I was wondering if you had ever been diagnosed (additionally) with Borderline Personality Disorder? According to the many studies I have read, there is co-morbidity (people having both) and also controversy as to whether ultra rapid cycling Bipolar is really Borderline Personality Disorder -with psychiatrists preferring to diagnose Bipolar due to a variety of reasons (avoiding the stigma of BPD, compensation from insurance companies, etc.). As I say, there continues to be controversy in this area.
Some people are initially diagnosed with Bipolar to then later have their diagnosis changed to BPD (and the reverse occasionally happens as well).
So I was wondering if you had ever been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder or if you have this as an additional diagnosis. Thanks!

August, 18 2014 at 8:56 am

How does one know if they are Bipolar or (ha ha) just depressed, what's the difference? Does Borderline or Split Personality have anything to do with being Bipolar?

August, 3 2014 at 1:49 am

Been up all nite searching for answers. I did not know what my son had wrong. My mom called me and said check bipolar so I've been reading. Most of it is bull. Your site is the only one that remotly compares to Robert. He's 29. He won't talk to drs. Won't take any meds. Won't. Listen. I can tell by his face he knows there's a big life threatening problem. Or time in prison if he doesn't check himself. I'm pleading for advice,guidance,any information,materials I can read. I had to have the state troopers remove him from my home yester day. The last 4monyhs bee. The worst. Until I read your site I was hopeless. See Robert has all symptoms severely. He has a couple days he the Nice's guy u want meet than I see him become aggitated, angry,out of control,RAGE,suicides attempts, threats of killing me. Breaking up his or my hose. He changes both gradually and at the drop of pin will just flip. Almost had a car accident doing 80 and more headed straight for guardrail yesterday morning to hurt me. He blames everything on me I am his outlet and my husband and family members. Girlfriends aren't the ones he can keep.He has done a whole lot more than all of these symptoms. Plz can you educate me any body with symptoms ho to get him to help his self. And to recognize before its too late. He was military train but only in for a few months he was taught how to choke ppl. He does to my husband one day he going to do it somebody and kill them. When he's good he's the Nice's person u ever want to meet. When bad it over rules the good.He has a 2 1/2 old son we need to get him some what straighten around so he can have some kind better quality of life. He has had a tough life. And works very hard 6days a week skidding wood he's a logger.12-14 hr days. The baby's mother is bipolar to not bad. She more w sex w anybody cheating. He's not with her now. She ran off with a child molester from Facebook got married. Robert still see her. Even on her wedding night sick right she a dozey. So his discussion making,getting into trouble all that stuff too. What do I do. Thank-You

August, 2 2014 at 8:54 pm

I do believe too to agree that you must have a great program, I know I am Bipolar but what have I done to change things, I know days I will be in bed, and that is okay, I make my list and get stuff done, being 51 I thought by now I would be right on top of every little detail about this disorder, Wrong ask someone who does not have a disorder if they are right on top of every wave length of their brain.
I like being me, I know food and medication and my cats help me
I love staying up all night, My friends have disappeared I am happy about that because those friends were toxic
I am opening my eyes to a new direction , I am smart, I will try anything to stay in check
I can not categorize what type of cycler I am.
But when i am down ,i am down,
I do not want to live alone with this but since I found this AWESOME BLOG site I do not have too.
There are a lot of great people that are bipolar
and I know i am one, I just have to now find my new mission or dream Peace to All

August, 2 2014 at 6:45 pm

Yep. Common patterns include changes of season or weather, time of day, menstrual cycles, etc. Basically tracking your patterns amounts to knowing what your triggers are and taking proactive measures to lessen the negative impact this has on your daily life. Same is true for schizophrenia (believed to be genetic cousins of bipolar)--I listened to a talk once by a woman who had schrizophenia, a highly successful lawyer in fact, but she had to learn what her signs were in order to reach that success.
I thought this was funny: "Women are more likely to rapid cycle than others."
As far as cycling of bipolar disorders, I believe (thank God), they've phased out of the various levels of cycling in the new DSM. It almost becomes a (pardon my adage) 'pissing contest' for who has the more severe disorder sometimes. Silliness if you ask me. Even a "normal" person's moods change day to day or within a day, so I don't necessarily agree that the changes on those levels constitute a different classification. With bipolar, it's just more severe and more triggers. Just. As if it were that nice and simple.
I also slightly disagree with the notion that "it's more a question of labeling than anything else" when considering how some people experience excessively rapid mood episodes, they may be instead experiencing a bipolar mixed mood episode.
And I do mean only slightly. The reason is type of treatment as regards medication management. Otherwise, I'm on board.

August, 2 2014 at 9:39 am

What frustrates me is that some psychiatrists dismiss that mood episodes can even happen more than a few times a year at all. I'll have mornings where I am ranting for hours until I am covered in sweat and my spouse is begging me to shut my mouth, and I can't stop. Then by supper time I can barely move. Or even leave my home without a tremendous amount of anxiety. But, that doesn't fit the traditional model of Bipolar Disorder, so it doesn't really exist...
Only we all know it does.

gregg lachewitz
July, 29 2014 at 6:53 pm

i love the word dysfunctional yup that's me
funny at soon to be 52 i am a really genuine person
it was nice to see this little video.
i wish i could change and snap out of this but lets face it, we deal with what is at this moment.
too many times wishing things were better. I try everyday to be positive, but that gray matter does not care sometimes, so those days i sleep.
Thank you for being real
peace gregg

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