Knowing the difference between feeling dull vs. sobbing rain showers from a break-up is a coarse way to distinguish from being in a mood vs. being the puppet of Emotion, the chief puppeteer. Humans, though, are puppets who can fight back. It is just that they need to know who is pulling the strings, and which strings they should yank down on to topple the puppeteer.
If mood is an emotional state, then happiness, for example, can only be a momentary state of mind. I’ve noticed that you can be happy only for the duration of that mood—swinging up and down, to joy and back, until you get tangled up in a depressed mood swing. It is a depressing thought to think that happiness is fleeting, but it is fleeting only to the extent that you need to keep swinging on those (happy) mood swings that nourish happiness. So when those classic fairytales end with “and they lived happily ever after,” what they are really saying is a permanent non-swinging mood named “Eternal Happiness” was prescribed, and then screwed into the minds of Cinderella and Prince Charming. Sorry if that sounds a bit graphic.
Let’s step back though from confusing emotions with moods. Moods cover the abstract, while emotions are sharper, specific, intense, reactive, and more likely to be triggered by particular stimuli.
- Anxious Mood: Worried, nervous, tense, overwhelmed, stressed, fearful.
- Irritable Mood: Easily annoyed, angry, argumentative or aggressive.
- Depressed Mood: Sad, down, tired, unmotivated, tearful, low self-esteem; thoughts that turn to guilt or pessimism. It can feel like there’s no reason to live. Patterns of sleeping and eating may change and physical pain may worsen.
- Empty Mood: Unable to find pleasure in anything, not interested in people or activities (the medical term for this is anhedonic, which means “lack of pleasure”).
- Brightly Elevated Mood (or Sunny Hypomania): Self-confident, happy, out-going, active, running on high energy and little sleep, spontaneous or impulsive, thinking quickly, creative, making lots of plans.
- Darkly Elevated Mood (or Dark Hypomania): Edgy, agitated, impulsive, impatient, irritable, distracted and unfocused, not sleeping much, anxious. making unwise choices, feeling distrustful or paranoid. Often this mood makes people want to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine or other drugs.
- Mixed State: This happens when depression overlaps with a dark mania. You may feel “tired and wired”, restlessly driven but not knowing what to do. Anxiety and irritability tend to be very high and sleep very irregular. It is very hard to concentrate
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So what does this mean for us? I think it pays to be self-conscious of your mood, to know if you are in a mood swing before you do what you do, say what you say, and type what you type.