Charting a Mood Cycle: The Effects of Losing Concentration

The headshrinker and I were talking about specific indicators of a worsening mood (losing concentration, lack of motivation, etc.) so I’m charting them to see if hyper-vigilance will make a difference.

Worsening Mood Cycle (Indicators in Chronological Order)


  1. Excellent mood, moderate to high productivity
  2. Concentration begins to decrease
  3. Reading comprehension decreases
  4. Length of time between going to bed and falling asleep increases
  5. Negative thoughts/self-destructive thoughts increase
  6. Motivation decreases
  7. Difficulty sleeping without sleep aid
  8. Begin to question life status/path (socialization time vs. isolation, reality vs. potential)
  9. Begin to isolate
  10. Lose all motivation
  11. Lose all concentration
  12. Apathy and adehonia set in

On average, each cycle is about six weeks in length but can be accelerated or decelerated by external events. Unfortunately the excellent mood usually lasts between 4-7 days while the low mood lasts for weeks. In the past seven days I’ve moved from step 2 to step 7 – my mood is still pretty even but things are slipping.

Thoughts on the Cycle

gnome drowningLosing concentration is closely followed by losing motivation, as I can’t be productive if I can’t concentrate. Most of my hobbies involve medium to high levels of concentration, so productivity is often halved when concentration wanes. Beyond ADHD meds, is there anything chemical that can help my concentration issues?

Charting this cycle has been interesting, as it’s really highlighted the shame and guilt I feel around not being productive. I noticed that my mood gets exponentially worse when I’m not busy at work and I feel infinitely better when productive during non-work times.

It would seem I need to keep busy, keep my mind occupied. But then I wonder whether keeping busy is simply a way to keep the worsening mood under the surface, containing it until it explodes without warning. That situation played out many times over the years – ignoring something until it explodes. Is there is a difference between keeping busy because it’s productive and healthy and keeping busy to avoid depression?

What does your mood cycle look like? How long does it last?

Things I Read and Found Interesting or Funny:

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16 thoughts on “Charting a Mood Cycle: The Effects of Losing Concentration

  1. Just wondering the extent to which you and the shrink have discussed whether hyper-vigilance is the problem rather than the solution.

  2. I’ve never charted my mood because I feel it would be more stressful for me personally. I do go between being happy and angry very quickly. Alert to overly alert to the point of thinking is difficulty and coping in general is usually a disaster.

  3. Reblogged this on Mm172001's Blog and commented:
    I like hearing how different people’s cycles are different. Mine are also in worsening order:
    1. Great mood, talkative, social, nothing bothers me, have a bunch of irons in the fire, sometimes a little risky behavior.
    2. Able to prioritize and stick with a project longer before moving to the next, still bore easily.
    3. Productive and realistic, having fun and getting things done.
    4. Sleeping in later.
    5. Less energy and motivation.
    6. Apathetic and/or flat. (which sometimes can be a good thing)
    7. Feeling empty, lonely and as if life is meaningless.
    8. Ruminating on everything wrong in my life and the possibility less future.
    9. Lacking personal care, not functioning well. Skipping school, staying in bed all day, not eating much, not bathing
    9. Urges to self harm or passively planning/thinking about suicide.
    10. Self harming (sometimes)
    11. Ask for help- medication change, emergency therapy sessions, or hospitalization

  4. Not sure I would be able to chart mine. Haven’t seen a pattern in the past.
    I like your final question … at times I struggle with that one too at times.

    When is it healthy to just take a break and have a rest from work and responsibility and when is it succumbing to avoidance and depression?

  5. I hate to suggest it, but this does sound a bit like bipolar cycling. I recently set out a similar set of steps – but divided into baseline, depression, and mania, with a bad-to-worse description of intervention points. I haven’t tried actually setting it out in a scale like you have, partly because there are intervening factors that make it super-difficult to identify patterns.

    However, one thing that could be at play (if you’re female, sorry, I haven’t got a clue on that score) is sex hormones. Changes in estrogen levels can dramatically affect attention.

    • My new psychiatrist just put me on Lamictal and thinks I live somewhere on the bipolar spectrum. I definitely don’t get the mania bit, hypomania maybe but even that’s mild.

      I am female and have wondered whether hormone levels are affecting anything, especially with the family history of endocrine issues.

      Beyond initially thinking “yikes, bipolar sounds much scarier than social anxiety and depression” I’ve actually come around to it if it means matching with meds that work.

      • There are forms of bipolar in which you never get mania – just severe depression cycling with dysthymia/baseline (bipolar disorder NOS).

        Hormones are really messing me up. Once I got on Lamictal and stabilized the bipolar cycles, the hormonal triggers became glaringly obvious. Now if only I could get into the specialist to make some progress…

  6. Pingback: Healthy Habits: Occupying My Hands, Exercise and Proper Sleep | anxiety adventures

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