One day you wake up and feel on top of the world. You feel like you can do anything; even your friends question if you’ve had too much caffeine! Three days later, it all just disappears. You feel lethargic, your motivation is gone, and nothing seems exciting anymore. For lack of a better term, you feel severely depressed. If these dramatic and constant mood fluctuations seem familiar to you, you may be part of the 1% of the global population suffering from bipolar disorder1. Each person’s experience with bipolar can vary. Thus, you must understand your moods and how they change to properly manage your disorder. Bipolar mood tracker apps or mood trackers for bipolarity – are a great place to start recording patterns of mood and key emotions that signal a manic (extreme joy) or depressive episode.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is known by several names, including manic-depressive illness or manic depression2. Regardless of the name, bipolar disorder is characterized by intense and drastic shifts in mood, energy, thought and behaviour. Some may experience these shifts, or episodes, that last for only hours, while others experience them for days, weeks or even months. As such can severely compromise your ability to carry out daily activities in the long term, as it is a chronic mental health condition1,2.
Understanding the Types of Bipolar Disorder
If you were to search online “bipolar mood disorder,” you will likely come across many stories, each recording a different experience with the disorder. These experiences can generally be grouped into one of the two types of bipolar disorder.
What is Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar 1 is generally defined by the presence of syndrome and manic episodes; however, it is important to note the selectivity regarding what is considered mania1. Mania is severe, with a dramatically elevated or irritable mood lasting for a minimum of 1 week. In contrast, hypomanic symptoms are only mild to moderate and last for a minimum of 4 days. In order for an individual to diagnostically qualify as having bipolar 1, they must experience at least one manic episode, preceded or followed by either a hypomanic or depressive episode. Moreover, bipolar 1 has a global lifetime prevalence of 0.6 to 1%1.
Additionally, mania is recognized by abnormally high emotions, energy, and irritability2. People going through mania appear talkative, hyper, and more likely to engage in activities that can cause them physical, social, or even financial harm. These changes are very apparent to those around them and can sometimes even be accompanied by delusions, hallucinations or other psychotic symptoms2.
What is Bipolar II Disorder
Contrastingly to bipolar 1, bipolar two is defined by the presence of syndromic hypomanic and depressive episode1. Note the distinguishment between hypomania and mania – they are two different states of emotion despite some overlap. As we have already stated, hypomania lasts for much less time and, in general, is not as severe as mania, though elevated mood, excitability and motivation are still prevalent.
Depressive episodes, on the other hand, are exactly what they sound like – periods of extreme depression2. This can include a loss of interest in most activities, tiredness, lethargy, appetite and sleeping changes, as well as worthlessness and hopelessness2. Bipolar 2 has a similar prevalence rate as bipolar 1, with an estimated global lifetime prevalence of 0·4–1·1%1.
Diagnostic guidelines for bipolar 2 include experiencing at least one hypomanic episode and a major depressive episode, with no requirements regarding manic episodes at1. Keeping track of these requirements can be difficult during the diagnosis process of bipolar disorder.
Therefore, a symptom tracker, such as the one included in the CareClinic app, is a great way to stay aware of your symptoms. The app allows you to track your symptoms every day, and the chart tool allows you to determine the persistence of each symptom at just a glance.
As an example, CareClinic makes it easy to distinguish between hypomania and mania, allowing you and your doctor to come to a diagnosis with less complication.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
So far, we have only briefly touched on the main symptoms composing each of the episodes of bipolar disorders. There are many more symptoms that can give you a much more comprehensive view of what bipolar disorder encompasses.
Characteristics of Mania Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of manic episodes include:
- Excessive happiness, hopefulness and excitement2
- Sudden drastic changes in mood2
- Rapid speech and thoughts2
- Increased energy and less sleep2
- Increased impulsivity and poor judgement2
- Making grand, unrealistic, and unachievable plans2
- Reckless and risk-taking behavior2
- Feeling unusually important or powerful2
Recall that hypomania has the same symptoms but at a much milder level. You may feel great, productive, and unstoppable, but the major difference is in the functionality of the symptoms2. With hypomania, social situations are still manageable and tolerable, unlike mania.
Characteristics of Depression
Symptoms of a severe depressive episode include:
- Overwhelming sadness2
- Low energy, motivation, and fatigue2
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness2
- Loss of enjoyment2
- Difficulties with concentrating and decision-making2
- Uncontrollable crying2
- Insomnia or excessive sleep2
- Changes in appetite2
- Suicidal ideation2
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Though a set cause of the bipolar disorder has not yet been identified, many researchers so believe there is a strong genetic component to the disorder2. More than 60% of individuals with the disorder have a close biological relative with the same condition2. However, it is always important to remember that just because there is a family history of bipolar doesn’t mean you will develop it. Think of it as blue eyes: your grandma may have blue eyes, but that doesn’t mean you will have them too, especially if your parents both have brown eyes2.
Other factors that may contribute include changes in the physical brain, including differences in the average size and activation of certain brain structure2. While this is a common trend across some cases of bipolar, a brain scan that matches these abnormalities does not necessarily mean the individual has bipolar disorder2.
Finally, trauma, stress and other environmental factors show a significant impact on the development of the disorder2. The death of a loved one, illness, financial problem or other stressors can trigger manic or depressive episodes in a person2. These events can therefore play a hand in the onset of bipolar disorder.
Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
As with most mental illnesses, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be an instrumental part of treatment. Although there are a variety of therapies, they all share one goal: to help you identify and reinvent troubling emotions, thoughts, and subsequent behaviours2. Some types of therapy include family-focused therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and psychoeducation. However, one of the most promising up-and-coming therapies is CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy2,3.
CBT is generally targeted toward four areas of the treatment process:
- Easing bipolar symptoms and episodes3
- Enforcing drug treatment regimens3
- Identifying early signs and prevention of episodes3
- Treatment of comorbid conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) 3
These goals are met across a limited number of sessions – usually anywhere from 5 to 202,3.
How does CBT Work for Bipolar Disorder?
To understand how CBT works, put yourself in the shoes of a therapist. Before you try to make any changes, you need to lay down a foundation. How do you do this? Well, gain an understanding of the issue. Ask your patient to talk about what they’ve been going through and try to understand the issues they are facing2.
Once you know where to start, you need to gain more in-depth information. Were there any traumatic events that could have influenced this patient, any fears, phobias, or thoughts of concern? People in they’re the life of great significance and their relationships with them? The only way you can get this information is by, of course, asking! Asking questions is a vital part of the therapy process and helps you gain insight into the patterns of behaviour a person may engage in when challenges arises3.
Everyone always says that it’s easier for the people around you to notice behavioural issues than yourself. This, to an extent, is true. Once you have a good understanding of the patient, problematic thoughts, behaviours, and lifestyle patterns will likely pop out at you3. In turn, you can help your patient identify their unhealthy habits and stay aware of them.
Now that you’ve identified the issues, the only step left to do is work through them. Coping mechanisms and active strategies can help turn negative emotions into positive ones. They can help you change your perspectives and develop better, healthy patterns and behaviours. These skills are the ones you will help them to develop not only for the present but for the future as well3.
Tracking your Health with CBT
Therapy doesn’t always work for all. Tracking your progress in therapy in the CareClinic app allows you to reap the benefits and determine if it is worth continuing with just a glance.
CareClinic wants what’s best for you by allowing you to make informed decisions in every part of your treatment journey, allowing you to be the best version of yourself sooner!
Medications for Bipolar Disorder
Medication is generally the first-line treatment for bipolar disorder. Specific types of medication can target different aspects of the illness:
- Mood stabilizers can help you manage manic and hypomanic episodes. They live true to their title by stabilizing emotions you may be experiencing and levelling you out. Some common mood stabilizers include lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithonate), valproic acid (Depakene) and Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro) 2.
- Atypical neuroleptics (antipsychotics) improve thinking, mood and behaviours by influencing the release and uptake of specific neurotransmitters in your brain. These medications can be beneficial for both manic and depressive episodes. Some common atypical neuroleptics include cariprazine (Vraylar), lurasidone (Latuda) and quetiapine (Seroquel) 2.
- Antidepressants are mainly used to treat major depressive episodes by increasing the uptake of happy neurotransmitters. These medications are never used alone as they can trigger a manic episode. Some common antidepressants include vilazodone (Viibryd), citalopram (Celexa) and sertraline (Zoloft)2.
2. Tracker and Journaling Apps
Mood happens to be the most common transdiagnostic factor in tracking your mental health and wellbeing4. Multiple studies have shown that mood tracing is one of the best ways to produce awareness and become mindful of your own mental health. Participants of these studies have found it even more beneficial to look at a screen and simply see their mood displayed over a large period of time4.
More specifically, tracking your mood can help you feel more self-aware, promotes self-reflection, and help you relate your mood to other factors in your life4. Accordingly, you may even find that writing down your mood at one time and looking back on it later can help you identify if negative feelings were validated or “worth it.” Moreover, you may also find that a specific negative emotion is often accompanied by some part of the environment. It’s all basic math after that! Subtracting the negative influence equals a better overall mood4. Thus, having these tools handy give you everything you need to make insights, intervene, and change your mood for the better.
Using a Tracker Bullet Journal
Many different trackers are available on the market, ranging from bullet journals, coloring pages, worksheets, and apps. I will always recommend using a digital diary. It’s just the most convenient for me; however, if you are more of a visual person, a bullet journal with coloured blocks may work better for you! Perhaps you prefer to write out how you feel instead, then a worksheet or notes tracker may be your best bet! The most important thing to consider is that the tracker you choose suits you and your needs. Regardless of which you decide to go with, keeping a bipolar mood tracker printable pdf bookmarked on your browser, a tracker journal or tracker bullet journal, or even a chart or note tracker can help keep your mood, thoughts, and emotions in line.
Utilizing Tracker Apps
We do everything on our phones. And that’s not necessarily something to be ashamed of (no matter how much your parents disagree). Most of us, myself included, don’t go anywhere without our phones. So imagine you’re at the grocery store and feeling zoned out, down, and uninterested in any of the food you need to restock on. You recognize the signs of a depressive episode immediately but oops! You forgot your fancy TikTok-inspired colour mood chart inside your tracker bullet journal at home! But, not to fear, you simply need to search up the “best bipolar mod tracker app” online, and boom, you’re all set and ready to go!
3. Worksheet or Paper Log
Printable PDF for Yourself and Kids
Online bipolar mood disorder trackers are convenient, easily accessible and an excellent option for people who are always on the go. While you’re at home, a bipolar mood tracker printable pdf worksheet is always available if you want to switch things up occasionally.
Some people may not even use a tracker app. A note tracker journal, digital worksheet, or even a colouring page meant for kids on your phone can work well. However, the main reason to switch to digital is that the analysis tools and pattern recognition in these bipolar mood tracker apps provide a benefit that you may not be able to uncover quite so easily or quickly.
What to Write in a Journal
You may not know what to write in journal mood trackers, and that’s okay! Each person is different and may require different things! Here is a list of some common trends across bipolar mood tracker journals and the best bipolar mood tracker apps:
Look for a tracker that allows you to record the lows but also the goods5! A mood tracker should allow you to track whatever you feel. However, you feel it. Entering your own emotion instead of one for a pre-set limited list may help you maintain a better and more detailed understanding of your emotions in the long run.
This is a big one. It is important that you are able to record how quickly and how long your moods are lasting, especially for individuals with bipolar disorder5. When questioning what to write in journals or trackers in general, do not hesitate to write down the time and date of your log.
Other BPD Mood Factors
Oftentimes, bipolar can easily be mistaken for other disorders, such as BPD. The more comprehensive and overall view you have of your mental health, environment, and triggers, the easier it may be for your physician to come to a diagnosis5. Both BPD trackers and bipolar trackers will track mood. However, a bipolar tracker may be more focused on duration and intensity, while BPD trackers may be more focused on triggering events. Nutrition, sleep, and medications are also factors that are great additions to BPD trackers, bipolar mood tracker apps or worksheets.
What to Share with Doctor that’s in the App
Diagnosing bipolar disorder is much harder than it may seem. There is, in fact, no definitive diagnostic system for the disorder6. This, coupled with varying definitions of the disease by different organizations, makes a universal diagnostic system difficult to achieve. Despite these hurdles, health care providers have a sort of checklist including strong and suggestive indicators that can help set this disorder apart. These indicators, along with screening questionnaires, such as the Mood Disorder Questionnaire, help with suggesting bipolarity as a possible diagnosis6.
These questionnaires and indicators tackle a variety of different aspects of bipolar disorder6. If you have been tracking your mood, instead of having to think back and give rough answers, an accurate and reliable set of information is available! Using your mood tracker is relatively easy: record your emotion, level of emotion, frequency and time of occurrence, and any other notable events or factors that appear to correlate.
This information then becomes accessible to your healthcare provider, giving them a much more comprehensive view of what you have been experiencing.
Frequency and Duration of Bipolar Episodes
We’ve already discussed that timing is vital to consider when diagnosing bipolarity. In fact, healthcare professionals consider brief but highly recurrent bipolar episodes a strong indicator of bipolar disorder by healthcare professionals.
This will most likely be one of the first pieces of information they will ask you to recall. Additionally, patterns such as seasonality and even the abruptic nature of onset and offset are suggestive features your doctor will want to analyze6.
Make sure to track exactly when your moods begin, end, and reoccur in your mood tracker!
Symptoms During the Bipolar Episode
Remember that list of symptoms from earlier? For both mania and depression? Make sure to remember those because simply saying you experience depression is likely not the information your physician is looking for. Atypical symptoms of depression – such as fatigue – are another strong bipolarity indicator6. When you are recording your emotions through an episode, make sure to be specific and touch on all the symptoms you are experiencing, not just depression as a whole, for example. This provides more clarity and gives your provider a detailed view of your disorder.
The Environment of your Bipolar Episode
Make sure to share the other events recorded in your mood tracker! Whether it be nutrition, medications, therapy or an event diary, these factors can give valuable clues to your healthcare provider about what disorder you’re experiencing. Subsequently, bipolar symptoms during menstruation or postpartum or a lack of response to antidepressants are highly suggestive features of bipolar disorder6. Keeping track of these features in your mood tracker and correlation charts can help you and your physician determines if other factors are impacting your disorder.
So what’s the Best Bipolar Mood Tracker App?
After all this, I’m sure you’re still wondering what the best bipolar mood tracker app is! There are many options available, but we definitely recommend our own App called CareClinic! CareClinic has a built-in mood tracker within their symptom tracker, with scales for each mood, areas to record time and even a spot to record other notes you find significant! The App is available on iOS and Android, and it works online and offline!
Using the reports feature, you can easily see the duration of each episode, the symptomatic moods you were experiencing, and other factors that play into your bipolarity, whatever they may be! CareClinic makes caring for yourself and your mental illness easy, reliable, and accurate. All your information is stored in one place and is always accessible whenever you need it. CareClinic is invested in helping you master your moods and manage bipolarity, so you can continue living your life to the fullest!
- McIntyre, R. S., Berk, M., Brietzke, E., Goldstein, B. I., López-Jaramillo, C., Kessing, L. V., Malhi, G. S., Nierenberg, A. A., Rosenblat, J. D., Majeed, A., Vieta, E., Vinberg, M., Young, A. H., & Mansur, R. B. (2020). Bipolar disorders. The Lancet, 396(10265), 1841-1856. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31544-0
- Cleveland Clinic. (2022, December 04). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9294-bipolar-disorder
- Ozdel, K., Kart, A., & Turkcapar, M. H. (2021). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Bipolar Disorder. Archives of Neuropsychiatry, 58(S1), 66+. https://doi.org/10.29399/npa.27419
- Schueller, S. M., Neary, M., Lai, J., & Epstein, D. A. (2021). Understanding People’s Use of and Perspectives on Mood-Tracking Apps: Interview Study. JMIR Mental Health, 8(8), e29368. https://doi.org/10.2196/29368
- Cherry, K. (2021, June 27). What Is a Mood Tracker? Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-mood-tracker-5119337
- Berk, M., Berk, L., Moss, K., Dodd, S., & Malhi, G. S. (2006). Diagnosing bipolar disorder: how can we do it better?. The Medical Journal of Australia, 184(9), 459-462. https://www.mja.com.au/system/files/issues/184_09_010506/ber10975_fm.pdf