Mood Charting

A simple way to find the right medicine

The paper-and-pencil mood chart tell us more about what medications you’ll respond to than brain imaging. It can also help you figure out which lifestyle changes are necessary to stay well.

Mood charts give a visual map of mood and energy over months. Much like a weather map, they help predict where things are headed. Just how good are they? In one study, regular mood ratings doubled the rate of recovery from depression, probably because the doctors had better data to base their decisions on.

But there’s a downside to mood charting: Who wants to think about their mood every day?!? The solution is to chart it weekly. This works just as well, because what we’re looking for in a mood chart is big patterns over long periods. Day to day fluctuations in emotions do not to tell us much about how treatment is working.

In fact, mood charts do not measure emotions, they measure moods, which is a medical term for energy level. The mood chart has two sides. On top is a graph of high energy states (called hypomania), and on the bottom is the low energy states (called depression). High energy doesn’t mean a “high” or positive emotion. In fact, these hypomanic states can feel very uncomfortable: Restless, anxious, and irritable.


  1. Choose a day of the week to complete your weekly rating.
  2. Each week, rate your high and low energy states using the rating scale on the back of the mood chart. Add the numbers up to equal 0-27.
  3. On the chart, shade the boxes up or down toward the total score (for the hypomania side on top, shade up; for the depression side on the bottom, shade down). The boxes at the far right of the chart show an example for a hypomania score of 11 and a depression score of 18.
  4. Write the date in the top box (e.g. “6/29”).
  5. If you made any medication changes that week, write them down in the top columns. Describe any lifestyle changes or major stressors in the bottom column if applicable.
  6. If you miss a week, still fill in the boxes; just approximate the score.

An App for That

There are plenty of apps that chart mood, but most ask people to rate emotions rather than mood. Two options that stand out from the crowd are DBSA WellnessTracker (which includes psychoeducation and allows clients to track many things beyond mood) and MoodLog (which is a simpler option).

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“Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds.”

Andrew Solomon • The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

“Denouncing these medicines makes as much sense as denouncing the immorality of motor oil. Without them, sooner or later the bipolar brain will go bang.”

David Lovelace • Scattershot: My Bipolar Family

“There is no harm in taking medication as it is utilizing the wisdom God gives to doctors. But it is also your responsibility to build faith for healing while using medication.”

Paul Silway • Pastor

“Being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

Carrie Fisher • Actor and Author