Mood Charting – The Color-Band Mood Chart

As most of you who have been reading this blog for a while know (and for those of you who are new comers, I expect that makes this an introduction) I am probably more than a little bit obsessed with my mood charting. 

Since my last round of mood-charting posts (Chart Week) I’ve been introduced to another charting technique that is seriously tickling my fancy. I spent the better part of my weekend translating a block of time from my earlier charts & data to compile a chart using this new technique to get an interesting new overview.

This technique was inspired by a friend who is tracking the sleep patterns of her new baby by shading in areas on a grid of squares. Her chart is hourly, but it struck me to make a daily chart with the same technique. Instead of shading in or not shading in a square to denote action, I’ve chosen a series of colors to reflect what action has taken place.

The result looks something like this:

March 2011 - June 2012

Color-Band Mood Chart, March 2011 – June 2012

Each band represents a month, with each square representing a day. You can see that some days are broken into two or three pieces, and that is because those days contained sometimes two or three easily distinguishable periods of different moods.

The breakdown of the colors is as such:

Dk Blue = severe depression
Lt Blue = mild-moderate depression
Green = stable/normal mood
Yellow = hypomania
Red = full mania (possibly including psychosis of some kind)
Brown = moderate mixed episodes
Black = severe mixed episode (possibly including psychosis of some kind)
Empty = no data available

Needless to say, it becomes very clear that the first few months shown on this chart were no walk in the park. There is a pretty big shift you can see in October 2011 where I began having my first big chunks of stability that I had in months (in fact, far beyond what is shown here). I’d be willing to venture that played a large role in the birth of this blog, as that is when it began.

It appears that cycling has began slowing down as well, which is definitely a good thing (more full big blocks instead of little choppy ones) though things were definitely shaken up again down at the very bottom in June, last month, when I began taking Trileptal.

It can be difficult for me to see patterns in mood charting with the traditional line graph -primarily periods of episodes. By classifying my mood ratings by the type of episode I am in at the time and placing them side by side, it become much easier for me to see periods of several days within one mood, or where one mood continues through several chunks broken up by a day or two with a different mood.

Since the DSM classifies episodes as a block of time with the majority of days in a period of time in a certain mood, the color-band mood chart has definitely helped my understanding of the length of my episodes and how they interact with one another.

One of the conundrums I have is that I do not have many squares containing red (full manic moods), which means I technically would not have enough to quantify a “full manic episode” (which must take place over a number of days) and therefor would not qualify me for the the diagnosis of Bipolar Type I. However, the fact that these manic moods occur at all means (as far as I have been told) that I do not qualify for the diagnosis of Bipolar Type II (where full mania is not present). This is a situation where I am hoping this chart will help my medical team’s understanding of what I deal with on a daily basis.

The best part, I think, about this charting technique is that all you need is some graph paper and some colored pens or pencils. Heck, even crayons. If you are starting this fresh and coloring one square daily, it may take a while before you have any significant chunks of information to look at, but it is easy to use any past data from other mood charting techniques to create one of these charts with information you’ve already gathered!

As I mentioned, I am totally tickled by this. I am going to bring mine to my next appointment with my psychiatrist (Thursday), I am hoping this will give him a better overview as well since we’ve both been struggling a little with the sporadic nature of my episodes. I’d really love it if someone else wants to throw one of these together and either write a post about it or shoot me an email, I’m really just curious to know what someone else’s chart would look like!

21 responses to “Mood Charting – The Color-Band Mood Chart

  1. What a great idea! I haven’t done any mood charting, but I can definately see the benefit. I think I’m going to try this color block chart. Thanks for your post!

  2. I love this idea! I have never had much luck mood tracking, because I just don’t keep up with enough to make it useful – especially when I most need to keep up with it. I have been hoping when I eventually upgrade to a smart phone I can try one of the mood tracking apps & might meet w more success. I the meantime I think I will give this a shot because instead of graph paper I can print a spreadsheet & I am a geek about spreadsheets XD

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I am a spreadsheet junkie too, I hope you keep up with it, it really becomes extremely helpful over time!

  3. *cough* more than a little bit, yes, I’d have to agree 😉

    I love the idea. That is the one thing I dislike about the free beta version of Moodscope (no idea if the paid-for version is different) is that while I might score a, let’s say, 9% two days in a row, those 9%s could represent drastically different moods, especially in relation to the amounts of anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis I experience.

    But I think I would have a similar problem as despitemyself described–I’m much better at tracking during manic days than depressed days such as being better at blogging, journalling, etc. I even re-booted my blog during a manic cycle, posting every day, then BAM, no posts.

    But having anything objective on paper is a big help when dealing with doctors. My counselor is NOT a chart person, but my two psychiatrists (one for meds; one for clinical diagnosis) have such short attention spans that a graph or something is so much easier.

    Maybe once I get thought this initial crisis period with everything, I will be able to collect more data.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I agree with you completely on the Moodscope thing. And that is my chief complaint with their process, the attributes they use to measure mood aren’t really ones that I would use to measure my own, and there is no distinguishing between what type of mood it is when you get the same score in several situations. It is “smart” but not “intelligent”.


      • I agree, I don’t really identify with the attributes, but they’re a standard APA scale, so that means they’ve tested the heck out of them for validity. The premium service gives you access to Affectograms and Triggergrams, which I find useful for seeing trends. Recently my affectogram shows that I’ve been feeling guilty a lot and not particularly engaged, which is pretty accurate.

        Actually, using those items over a long period of time has made me think a bit differently about how I feel – if I’m frustrated, how does that translate? Angry, worried, irritable, or some combination thereof? I’ve since come to realize that a lot of what I call frustration is based in anger and irritability but I never recognized it as such.

        Anyway, I like the objective measure because I’m lousy at scoring my mood on a 10-point scale with any consistency. I’m currently using Moodscope scores in combination with another tool, which I’ll blog about eventually…

      • I’ve been continuing to use Moodscope as something of a “second set of eyes” to have another perspective on what my moods might be doing, independent of what I think they’re doing. In that respect, I have enjoyed it, and the sharing tool has been fun to play with in conjunction with some other bipolar folks I know.

        Unfortunately, a paid feature isn’t quite in my budget at the moment, but that might change. I am interested to at least try those features out, so I may subscribe -if just for a little while.

  4. oo, I stumbled across this last night and spent half the night thinking about how I’d turn it into a spreadsheet this morning. I’ve just spent the past hour doing just that. I’ve never thought of doing it like this before, but I really like how it shows patterns in blocks, more so that a line graph appears to. Unfortunately it’s also made me realise I’m actually a lot less stable at the moment than I was a year ago, which is a bit concerning, but at least if I’ve got concrete evidence of that I can work with it. Thanks

    • Awesome! It is definitely odd to me any time I have one of those realizations that I am doing better/not as well than I had though, perspective is such an interesting thing to me -which is why I am obsessed with so many charting techniques I guess! I am glad you found something useful, thanks for stopping by!

  5. This is awesome! I’d make one myself but I have so much data that it would be a huge drag.

    You could do a similar thing with Excel, just coloring in each cell with a different shade – you could have a bigger range of colors that way, too. 🙂

    • Oh, right. Like intothesystem just said. Duh.

      Great minds think alike, right? 😉

      • hehe yep!

        My spreadsheet uses conditional formating to colour the blocks. I enter a score either -5 to -1 for depressed mood (shaded in blue – darker for more depressed), +1 – 5 for manic moods. (shaded in red – stronger for more manic) 0 for normal (in white). and then I also use *1 *2 or *3 for mixed moods – *3 causing the most distress and *1 the least. These are manually coloured in lilac through to purple.

        I printed it off for my GP recently and he seemed to like it, although he was concerned by the large amount of colour this year compared to the mainly white sections (normal mood) of last year. It makes things really easy to see.

  6. thank you so much for this.
    has made my manic episodes and anxiety-depression easier to track patterns.
    in love and struggle,
    Tallest Hellos

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  9. This is really helpful. A friend linked me to your “mood chart” tag because I was looking for a better way to show my psych APRN the mood cycle that I’ve been observing. I can see the depression and hypomania in a pattern, but when I tried to turn my other mood tracking methods into a line chart it became this nonsensical zigzag that didn’t show my overall mood during a time period. I’m going back through my journal now and coloring in a calendar with your method – about 2.5 weeks done so far, and I’m aiming to get at least the last 3 months finished before my appointment Thursday.

    • That is exactly why I started using this technique, good luck on finishing before Thursday! I know how time consuming turning data into little colored squares can be!

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