Mood Swings - Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.
Mood swings are a common characteristic of personality-disordered individuals. Mood swings are perhaps the most disconcerting of all the characteristics of a person who suffers from a personality disorder because they defy the reasoning or logic of the person who is trying to “figure them out”.
Mood swings are rarely an accurate indicator of realities on the ground. They are typically based on the way a personality-disordered individual feels - not the facts. However, non-personality-disordered individuals sometimes fall into the trap of trying to interpret the moods of a personality-disordered loved-one based on recent events.
It's normal for a person who suffers from a personality disorder to occasionally be troubled by their own behavior and to attempt to rationalize or draw attention away from their behavior by focusing on the shortcomings of others.
Positive Mood swings are often welcomed, but can be just as destructive as negative mood swings. This is because positive mood swings often appeal to a person’s sense of justice or clemency - as in: “if this person is being so nice to me then they can’t be the evil person I thought they were.” This kind of reaction is common among Non-PD’s - but can be just as counter-productive as over-reacting to a negative mood swing. It is important to remember that if a person with a personality disorder has acted abusively in the past, then a sudden change to acts of kindness offers no bona fide explanation or reconciliation for past abuses and provides little security against future abuses.
The range of moods displayed by a person who suffers from a personality disorder can be dramatic - from suicidal tendencies to sublime bliss.
A successful businessman attempts suicide on Monday and acts like everything is wonderful on Thursday.
A woman decides to stop nurturing her children one week but the next week enrolls them in a development program.
A bright young girl drops out of college and blames it on her parents' nonchalant disposition. The next semester she makes straight "A's"
A colleague at work inexplicably flips in and out of a collaborative or friendly, approachable demeanor.
A housewife oscillates between a "Martha Stewart" look-alike and a bedridden victim of "abuse".
What it feels like:
It's important to recognize that positive mood swings are as much a feature of personality disorders as negative mood swings. The tendency for the non-personality-disordered individual is to feel pressured to comprise on their boundaries when they are suddenly met with a flood of good vibes from their personality-disordered loved-one. However, it's important to remember that boundaries are not vindictive. Boundaries are worth preserving in stormy weather and fair - just as a seawall provides security whether the waves are calm or stormy.
It's tempting to assume that other people are just like us - and we have a tendency to extrapolate our own feelings and reactions to explain the reactions of others. We often look at the behaviors of others and ask ourselves "What circumstances or feelings would it take for me to act like that" and use that to explain the actions or motives of others.
However, all people are not the same. Some people react just like us, but many don’t. People with personality disorders represent one end of a spectrum of human behavior. They often react radically to their feelings, without taking time to think through the logic of their situation, their actions and the consequences of their actions.
This can sometimes leave us wondering "What on Earth did I do to deserve this/provoke that/make them act this way?"
The answer is usually: "Nothing."
It's important to remember that you are never responsible for another person's behavior - if a person you care about is behaving in a way that you don't like, that is simply their decision. In most cases, it has nothing to do with you or what you have done.
If another person claims "I did ---- because you did -----” or "I said ---- because you said -----” then they are making up excuses for their own behavior.
What To Do:
When you are faced with a positive mood swing:
Don't throw away your boundaries.
Don't assume that this lovely person you are confronted with is the real person or the true person. It is a part of them - but the whole person is the average of both the positive and the negative that you have experienced.
Don't forget about the negative experiences - they are as much a part of the reality as the positive.
Don't assume that this positive mood swing will last forever.
When you are faced with a negative mood swing:
Don't retaliate with bad behavior of your own.
Maintain your boundaries.
Keep yourself and your children away from any physical, verbal, emotional or sexual violence or abuse.
Don't assume that this nasty person you are confronted with is the real person or the true person. It is a part of them - but the whole person is the average of both the positive and the negative that you have experienced.
Don't forget about the positive experiences - they are as much a part of the reality as the positive.
For More Information & Support...
If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.
Five years ago, a photographer, an engineer, a writer, an office manager, a grandmother, a graphic artist, a law student, a husband, a librarian, and a stained-glass artisan came together to connect a diverse, isolated population in search of information, support, and growth as they strive to cope with a family members, spouses or partners who suffer from a personality disorder. Since its launch on November 1, 2007, Out Of The FOG has grown from a fledgling discussion group with 10 participants, to a vibrant community of over 4000 registered members world-wide, with new members joining every day.
On August 31 2012, the Out of the FOG Support Forum crossed two significant milestones - 100,000 member posts and 10,000 topics. Thanks to all who participate and contribute to the OOTF support board, which is a unique source of support to non-personality-disordered individuals all over the world.