How to Mood Map #MoodMapping

I created ‘How to Mood Map’ as part of a project for the NHS in Lincolnshire, UK in 2014.

If you click on the fuzzy photo below, a link will take you to a printable pdf.

Please let me know if you find this useful.

Also, please get in touch if you feel you can help me make this site even more useful.

Five Keys to Mood – Adapted from Mood Mapping by Dr Liz Miller

We can do well in life and avoid disorders by paying attention to our five keys to mood and well-being:

  • SURROUNDINGS – Do we have a good enough home in a good enough neighbourhood and do we get outdoors?
  • HEALTH – Are we eating the right things that allow us to be active, sleep well and think clearly?
  • AUTONOMY – Do we have purpose in our lives and are we achieving some of what we want to be doing?
  • RELATIONSHIPS – Who are we supporting and who supports us?
  • EDUCATION – What do we know and what can we share?

We get over disorders by:

  • spending time in SURROUNDINGS that suit us
  • looking after our physical HEALTH
  • keeping HOPES alive and being able to ‘do our thing’ including being creative or productive
  • paying attention to our RELATIONSHIPS
  • continuing to LEARN and adapting to a changing world

Possibly you have only been paying attention to some of these keys to mood and well-being? This is okay because many people get by focusing just the things they feel are key for them.

What we believe is that sometimes it is necessary to re-look at the FIVE KEYS TO MOOD as part of restoring BALANCE to our lives.

Mood Mapping – Dr Liz Miller – About the Mood Map grid

Dr Liz Miller’s book, Mood Mapping – Plot Your Way to Emotional Health, has two main themes:

    1. The Mood Map grid
    2. The Five Keys to Mood

The Mood Map grid is a simple, visual way to understand and record the way you feel.

It can be used to explain why some of us can be convinced we are ‘bipolar’ and how many of us are coming to realise we never were that ‘bipolar’ at all.

If you want to understand your moods or think your bipolar diagnosis may not be right then the Mood Map grid is the place to start in understanding what is going on with your feelings and moods and how to live a life without being so ‘bipolar’.

Marian Moore says, “Mood can change in an instant or gradually over time. Some people are ‘morning people’, others more nocturnal. Some days are better than others. Mapping your mood helps you see when you are at your best, your worst, and even when it might be better just to stay at home!”

Mood Mapping allows us to increase our self-awareness by allowing us to know more about how we feel and gives insights into why we do the things we do. It develops our observing-self, enabling us to see moods or emotions for what they are, and not being caught up and overwhelmed by them.

Why map our moods?

Stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression have always been difficult to quantify and many people find it difficult to say which of these they are experiencing. Yet without measuring these, it can be difficult to know whether things are changing much at all.

Music may help you feel better, but how much better? Is quiet meditation more effective for you? Can this effectiveness be measured and described to others? Which foods improve your mood? Without an effective way of measuring mood it is difficult to know what is affecting your mood most.

By knowing and being able to accurately describe our moods we can become better at helping ourselves and finding the help we need when we need it.

Mood Map grid

Mood Map grid

The Mood Map grid as originally developed by Dr Liz Miller:

Mood is said to have two main components:

ENERGY – shown as up and down on the map

POSITIVITY – Essentially how you feel, shown as left and right on the map

The two axes divide the map into four quarters which describe the four basic moods;

  1. Tired (which can include good reflective moods as well as normal exhaustion and abnormal depressive states)
  2. Anxiety
  3. Action
  4. Calm

Moods affect not just how a person feels but also how they behave

For example, a small child runs towards a busy road;

–       a person who is very TIRED may think “How awful, that child may die, I wish I could do something”

–       a person who is already in a mood of high ANXIETY may panic and scream.

–       a person in the ACTION mood – runs to the child and whisks them away from danger.

–       a person who is CALM can think how to avert the danger without unnecessarily alarming people.

In this example the positive moods of ACTION and CALM seem great. The reality is that there are no good or bad moods. There is a time and a place for every type of mood. As we learn from Mood Mapping, it is the ability to change to the mood we need at any particular moment that allows us to be healthiest and work well with those around us.

A Scientific Perspective

Mood most likely comes from the deepest part of the brain, where the sympathetic (flight and fight) and parasympathetic (housekeeping) part of our nervous system join. Thus when we wake up, we immediately become aware of how we feel, and then the rest of the brain can gradually work out why we feel that way, and what we are to do next.

Mood Mapping is a simple technique that is easy to learn and easy to teach.

The first step is to plot your mood at this moment by estimating how much energy you have and putting a mark on the vertical axis.

Plotting on mood map

Plotting on mood map

Then estimate how good or positive they feel and plot that on the horizontal axis. The Mood point is where vertical and horizontal marks on the graph cross.

The Mood Point can be labelled with the time and perhaps a quick note why you feel the way you do. If you feel this is not the right mood for you at this time then maybe think what you have done in the past that has helped you get the mood you want now.

Plot another point later, to see if your choice has been effective.


Thanks to Marian and Liz for allowing me to adapt their article from

This is just the start of Mood Mapping. Next article: The Five Keys to Mood

MILLER, LIZ Dr., (2009), Mood Mapping: Plot your way to emotional health and happiness, pub. London, Rodale

Bipolar Recovery Bite-size – Mood Mapping #moodmapping

Two years ago I was writing ‘Bipolar Recovery Bite-size’.  This was to explain how I and others had come to understand what had happened to us and so recovered from the diagnosis. The reason for ‘bite-size’ was that emotional disturbances can make it difficult to read long articles – The challenge became one of sharing this important information in small chunks/bites.

I have started updating all the bipolar recovery bites and over the next few weeks hope to share the new versions here at Rethinking Bipolar

1.What are emotions made of?

Fourteen years ago as a patient on an acute psychiatric ward I was told I had an emotional disorder that would need to be treated with medication for the rest of my life. I was given a label, “Manic depressive”. There was no explanation of emotions, what was causing the disorder or what I could do other than take tablets.

I wonder how different the next few years of my life would have been if the psychiatrist had been able to explain to me something about emotions.

Perhaps he thought I was too ill to understand or perhaps he did not know how to explain?

We all have an idea what emotions are and yet we all seem to explain emotions in different ways. Emotions mean different things to different people.

 Before reading bite 2 , “Emotions Are Made Of…”, how would you describe emotion? 

Emotions are made of… #moodmapping #bipolarrecovery

Emotions are made of…

As a stress adviser I found this diagram to be useful showing emotions to have three components:

emotional health


The arrows are there to show how:

  • The way we feel can affect our energy and our thinking.
  • Our energy can affect the way we feel and the way we think.
  • Thoughts can affect our energy levels and our feelings.

I was told I had a mental illness. ‘Mental’ being to do with thinking, it made sense to me that if I could improve my thinking that would sort out my problems. In fact, improving the way I was thinking did help me to recover.  I wrote about this my first book, Stop Paddling/Start Sailing. Readers have told me how much it has helped them.

The reality is, thinking alone does not provide lasting recovery or build resilience. If your feelings and energy levels are kind of out of control then simply reading Stop Paddling/Start Sailing is unlikely to do much towards a full and long lasting recovery.

Eventually, I was amazed and delighted to discovered I was not mentally ill. I was not even ill. I had a mood problem and for this  I needed to understand that FEELINGS and ENERGY are the components mood. Knowing more about how to feel differently and have more control of energy levels turns out to be an excellent place to start recovering from being labelled with bipolar disorder.

Next time… Looking at Feelings and Energy to provide a balanced approach to having moods that are good for you and those you live with.

Taking action (Busy Mood Option) to eliminate fear (Anxious Mood Option)

Can we really eliminate fear?

I have experienced a lot of fear since I first experienced a lock-down. Prior to March 2020, I only knew of lock-downs as something that could happen in a prison or in China. The idea that we could have a nationwide lock-down in the UK had never crossed my mind.

As soon as the lock-down came into place (into force!?) my level of fear (or the amount of fear I was experiencing per day) ‘went through the roof’. By this, I mean it hit levels that disabled me as my brain tried to fathom out why our government would introduce a measure known to weaken immunity (Ref: Patrick Holford’s 1998 book, “Boost Your Immune System” See quote from that book below) I was close to top left of the Mood Map (about 1,7) for too long day-after-day. I was in a state of great anxiety burning up my energy reserves, looking for answers day-and-night.

It is a long story as to how things went over the next 12 months as I had to develop a whole new way of life to adapt to what is anything but a ‘new normal’. Right now, for me, all is abnormal, while much is new and much is old knowledge, with familiar surroundings as well as interactions with old friends.

Rather than tell that long story, I want to simply paste a text I just sent to one of my ‘old friends’. He is not that old and we only first met a few years ago… but old in that he is not one of the many new friends I have made in 2021 through A Stand in the Park – Here is my response to things that have been troubling both of us:

My early morning text starts here:

“G.O.” and glutathione is I believe far more complex than is being suggested… although… in the real-world when it comes to killing the simplest methods are so often the ones selected 😦

Let us meet up as it could be we have been travelling on almost parallel tracks. I am finding these exciting times now that I have learned I can function without fear for long periods. Putting fear aside has not been about dismissing the dangers but simply knowing that if the kind of God I was taught about at school were to one day ask,

“Roger, what did you do on 15th July 2021, while you believed millions of your fellow people were suffering and you might able to help them live in less pain?”

I want to at least say that I took some action and did not cower away being afraid of ridicule.

Since about 1981 I have not been able to hear or use the word ‘ridicule’ without thinking of one of the most famous ‘bipolar’ stars… I’ll just put Stuart Goddard and maybe you’ll be tempted to click here: Stand and Deliver! (whoops – Not the link I intended – need to sort that out when not so busy) Stuart Goddard seemed to choose to live his life without fear… perhaps he was living his life ‘like a candle in the wind’ or like a shooting star. Somehow he survived both fame and treatments for ‘bipolarity’ and at the time of writing is still functioning having overcome a lot of fear.

I typed most of the above as part of explaining myself to myself – I do hope you have found some solace or inspiration from my words.


A few words from page 106 of Patrick Holford’s 1998 book, “Boost Your Immune System”

“One study showed that paying visits to elderly people in retirement homes three times a week measurably improved their natural killer cell levels and their overall immunity competence.”

= Essentially having visitors made them stronger and healthier.

Choosing high energy and positivity = ‘Busy’ mood. “Today, while I can still see one starfish alive, washed up on this massive scorched beach, I’m going to continue to check they know which way it is back to the sea.”

We tend to react to stress by changing our mood to allow us to take the actions needed. Actions to protect ourselves and/or actions to protect those we love.

However much stress we experience, we will still be in one of the 4 basic moods described in Mood Mapping. (If not familiar with Mood Mapping please download my free ‘How to Mood Map‘ pdf.)

The names of the moods have changed over the years. Personally, I have settled on; Anxious, Busy, Calm and Down as the names for these 4 basic moods. Yes, we may have many sub-moods and feelings, but as humans we will we either choose to be in one of those moods or end up in one by default.

“…starfish on a beach in hot sun”? How do we react when we see our friends in danger?

We may:

  • Rush to their aid in a state of HIGH energy with low positivity… in an Anxious mood,
  • Freeze in a state of low energy with low positivity… in a Down mood,
  • Stand back in a state of low energy with HIGH positivity, with a belief that someone else will intervene and we will thereby minimise risk to ourselves… in a Calm mood,
  • Think carefully, consult with experienced people we trust, in a state of HIGH energy with HIGH positivity then take decisive action… in a Busy mood.

Now, if your friends are NOT aware they are in danger and a change in behaviour could help them massively, then you may well appear crazy and risk being (re-)labelled as bipolar. In the analogy, a starfish may be unaware it is in danger or perhaps not want to be thrown back into the surf.

The downside of a busy mood is that if I (or you perhaps) get stuck in one then we can appear manic to others as it tends to look like an obsession with excess focus on one challenge to be overcome.

I have a very good friend, I’ll call G and he’ll know it is him, who insists that we can always choose our mood. I love that idea and always believed it until an incident I describe in SP/SS that convinced me that we can indeed always choose our moods (and perhaps actions) until we stop believing we can choose. That debate never ends as ultimately it is what we believe and our attitude that will shape all our futures.

Whether I choose to be a rescuer at my own expense or whether this is a role that has been thrust upon me, I cannot tell.  I just know that I prefer ‘Busy’ rather than ‘Down’ or ‘Anxious’, while a little Calmness now and then ensures I am not getting stuck in a mood.

If you have read and understood the above then you are ‘my kind of person’ so please do stay in touch… and can I help you?

Profiting from explaining #moods and #bipolar

If you have alwaysFor most of my life I tried. By this I mean that I mostly believed I improved things for myself and others by working hard. I believed that putting in a lot of effort would lead to good things.

In my 2004 book, ‘Stop Paddling / Start Sailing’ I describe this way of living as paddling. The stop paddling idea does not mean to stop making an effort. It is more about seeing the alternatives and then starting again with a better understanding of why sometimes trying hard works well and sometimes it does not work as expected.

By 2005 I was keen to start my training business, with an associate suggesting, ‘Stop Paddling’ as a unique business name. I wanted to help people understand that there are many alternative mind-sets and to help course participants to have more choice whether to spend their time paddling, drifting or sailing and of course to avoid sinking!

The Stop Paddling business did not go as planned and from 2006 to early 2012 I was mainly training people to understand, live with and recover from being diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. This led to publishing the handbook on Bipolar Disorder for Nurses and Carers in January 2012.

To publish a 350 page book on bipolar disorder and to continue to teach health professionals, the public and of course those who need to recover from the bipolar diagnosis I needed to do a lot of research. I had lots of meetings with experts, read a lot of books, did lots of on-line research and worked for 4 years on mood and recovery research projects.

The authors who I met during this time who most influenced my thinking were Dr Liz Miller and Robert Whitaker (Recommended reading: ‘Mood Mapping’ and ‘An Anatomy of an Epidemic’). If you have time to read both with an open mind you will surely reach the same conclusion I, and I believe everyone else who has read these books comes to: bipolar disorder and other mental health diagnosis are only labels and not medical diagnoses. Bipolar is a label used for people who suffer from stress and anxiety who have periods of higher or lower energy levels.

For earlier generations (prior to bipolar becoming a diagnosable disorder in 1980) most people feeling anxious and stressed with variable energy levels would have been considered to simply be under pressure, in pain, needing change… Now you only need to sit in front of a psychiatrist and say you are feeling troubled for a bipolar disorder diagnosis to be a likely outcome.

This has left me in an odd situation. I continue to research and teach about what is described as a diagnosis that is really no more than a label.

In creating the social enterprise, Rethinking Health (UK) Ltd, my new colleagues helped me find a way to continue with this teaching and research through helping students see both sides of ‘the bipolar coin©’. Part of our courses are delivered using a large coin with each face used for comparison of the main alternative views.

For most who are being labelled as bipolar their biggest challenge becomes the label itself which implies little or no recovery, little hope and on-going stigma that maintains a bleak looking future which in turn maintains the disorder. As well as their original troubles they now have to cope with the stigma that stacks so much against them when wanting to get their lives back on track.

I am reminded of the statement at the top of the page and this quote…

Madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome.” Albert Einstein

Tackling causes:

Whatever it is that is driving people to turn up at doctor’s offices to accept the bipolar diagnosis it will continue to make these people unwell unless something changes. Knowing what to change depends on looking at the causes of our emotional turmoil.

On our recovery courses people have found it easy to identify many possible causes. These are all things that happened in the past that set us up for difficulties with managing our emotions or things in the present that can tip us over the edge.

The likely causes are well-known. It is more challenging, yet essential, to help people to find their personal causes and triggers. Knowing what causes and triggers our troubles allows us to not just to change what we do, but also to have a good chance of making the right changes that will allow us to live a healthier life.

A fresh start:

2012 was a big year for us in figuring out what is going on and how we can help improve the prospects for the next generation.

It was also a time of realisation that we as trainers with experience of mood disorder had become part of the bipolar industry. We were being paid to effectively promote the idea of bipolar as a diagnosis and however much we were explaining that bipolar is just a theory, just using the word was helping the industry around bipolar to keep on growing and drugs to continue to be prescribed.

Although we cannot challenge bipolar without using the word ‘bipolar’, it now seems more ethical not to take a wage from this but rather keep the money we are paid in the social enterprise. This is  allowing our work to expand and so more people can have more hope after bipolar diagnosis.

This is a different kind of profit – if we can do this we can start to feel great about our work again.

Choose your mood

For more than a year I have asked training course participants if this statement is ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘maybe’…

“I choose my mood and am in the mood I want to be in most of the time”

I have been surprised that many nurses, social workers and similar participants say this is not true for them. They then say it is not true for the people they are paid to help.

Surely we should be able to choose our mood most of the time. If we find that our moods are almost entirely depend on our circumstances there is a huge risk that we could become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied.

If we are going to help others recover from mood disorders and help others with choosing their moods we first need to practice choosing our own moods.

We can help clients, friends and family better when we are able to choose our own moods.

See: What is emotion?


Can We Save Our Friends With the Aid of an Acronym and Some Mood Mapping?

When someone suicides and there’s a half written note, someone is sure to be asking, “Why?”

When I was teaching Mental Health First Aid there was a fellow facilitator who was a policeman. He brought along, by far the best (that I have seen), mnemonic for explaining how people reach a point where they will suicide. It is a shame this has been forgotten rather than SHAREd.

If I had help going through the papers I stored, from those days, I could perhaps find what that policeman gave me. I could have thousands printed. People could keep one with their phone, laptop or even on a wall in their kitchen. Misery seems to be causing suicides, so here I will share thoughts on reducing that…

I can say with certainty why people become miserable and with equal certainty what it is that allows people to be happy again. I have worked with the most amazing health professionals, so these are not my ideas. Here, I am using what they have said in ways that are more likely to be remembered.

Here are 5 things we all need. These have had many different names over the years and you may call them what you want. It is still true though that everything we need for wellbeing fits into these categories:

Surroundings: What is around us from; clean air, water and food to having enough money, appropriate clothing and somewhere we can sleep without fear… Surroundings continue to be ignored by doctors and psychiatrists who can afford to buy in pleasant neighbourhoods. Being in poor housing is often a consequence of lack of some of what is below…

Physical health: Not everyone who is in pain is miserable, some are. Resorting to prescription drugs to ease pain is so often a path towards deteriorating health and a downward spiral of more pain and more ‘pain-killers’. I know that sitting too long at this laptop is damaging my health and that moving more helps almost everyone. The saying, “You are what you eat” is as relevant now as it has ever been. “EAT REAL FOOD” is, I believe, the best 3 word starting point for a healthy life. Help with this is free from PHC.

Ability to choose: People who believe, “We always have a choice” are fortunate. Sometimes what we are choosing between seems too limited. Worse than this is; a) when the options seem too numerous to choose between and b) when we become fixated on one very hard choice, such as, “Do I do nothing or end my life now.” The ability to choose can be said to be autonomy and linked to freedom. Many become slaves to; the ones they love, their work, their addictions and so become less free. Not so common today is having too much freedom. Example: After a divorce – with possibly more options than one’s brain can cope with.

Communication: We all have roles and all need some kind of relationships. Both depend on our ability to communicate. Being able to distinguish between our wants and needs helps, as does recognizing what is essential to say and what is non-essential/trivial. We need to be able to ask questions, say what we need and communicate important facts. More than all of this, how accurately can we convey our feelings and mood?

I have found no better way to communicate feelings and moods than with the use of a mood-grid. It is sad that communicating using paper and pen has been going out of fashion. Please do learn to ‘mood map’. With a mood-grid we can see (yes, I mean visually on paper) how our friend/relative is feeling. We can see what their words are not conveying and what we may have missed in their body language. Knowledge of the grid helps to know whether there is deep depression (that you will learn, almost never equates to suicidal risk at that moment) of if your friend/relative is in the danger-zone on the grid, needing immediate/urgent help.

Enthusiasm: This goes with having appropriate energy as well as occasional excitement and enjoyment, Enthusiasm for life tends to wane when we lack energy. Example: In response to, “We are going to walk our dog, it’s a lovely day, do come with us.” what might a reply of, “Not today” mean. If the only reason for not walking is a lack of energy that person needs help.



“Do you know Joe Blogs?” (not real name)

“Yes. He is, kind of, famous/infamous.”

“He was trying to guilt trip people into activism…”

“I find this upsetting. I was accused of this. It affected me so badly emotionally and physically that I had to drop out of the local group completely. I am alone now.”

To “guilt trip” is a meme. Like all memes it came into existence at some moment in time. Why has it spread? What is its purpose? Who benefits from these 2 words put together? Why would an activist ever try to ‘guilt-trip ‘anyone? It makes no sense. Guilt-tripping would be a way to divide and drive away the people whom we are so desperate for help from. It seems it is a meme that works to divide and weaken communities.

I found out yesterday that people did not like to read things from me like, “I got up at 4am and finished this blog post by 5am” – That, to me was/is a fact… It says something about my mood… lack of stability… need for stability… I am certainly not asking others to get up at 4am and become emotionally unstable.

Four 4 basic moods [Anxious / Busy / Calm / Down]:

>> Mood Mapping <<

“…and I called him out on it.”

“Please never do so again. If someone is saying they are working hard and looking for help, even if it is making others feel bad, please recognise that is mainly the problem for the person whose Anxiety drives him/her into the Busy quadrant.”

Others may be able to move more quickly from Anxiety to a Down-mood or a Calm-mood or be able to remain Anxious. Your typical activist has lost this ability and will rarely feel any Calm/Calmness until after a period of being Busy/very-Active.

Some people do not know, or cannot remember how to move from Anxious to Calm without first being Busy….

>> How to Mood Map <<

“You should perhaps try and connect with him.”

“It can be hard to connect with activists. They are so often close to exhaustion from such long periods of being Busy and very little Calm in their lives.”

Every activist seems to be looking for help. I am reminded of Billy Joel’s

>> “Angry Young Man” <<

There’s 2 minutes of instrumental introduction. The second verse contains,

“Give a moment or two to the angry young man… With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand… He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood… It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good… And he sits in a room with a lock on the door… With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor….”

“Does that sound like your friend, Joe Bloggs?”

Regarding side-effects of psychiatric drugs

Dear reader,

I am glad you found my answer to your question of, “When taking Carbamazepine I have heard it said to only have bottled water to avoid chlorine that that may interacts with Carbamazepine – is this true and important?” As you say, it is worth sharing these thoughts on Carbamazepine and other psychiatric drugs, as others may also find this discussion useful so I will post what I was saying here:


It is worth looking at the side-effects of carbamazepine in the link below. I have heard hundreds of stories of weird interactions like the one about chlorine and carba… These may or may not have some truth in them but 99% of the time such ideas are trivial. The drugs are toxic so, in the very long-term, the more we take the sicker we get.

How to help your mum?… The food she is having is likely to be cheap rather than good, so maybe check on what supplements she is having to make up for some of the deficiencies. E.g. Any sort of omega-3 supplement? Omega-3 being good for the heart, brain and joints.


All drugs have lots of side-effects. A simple way of looking at psychiatric drugs is that they are;

  • intended to make us less anxious and therefor have to…
  • cause us to have less energy
  • this requires them to be toxic
  • and so they cause just a little damage with every dose

It is the less energy bit that explains how they work. If you think of a mood map, then less energy takes us down and out of the anxious quadrant and into the ‘low’ quadrant. The drugs work when the dose is low enough to take the edge off the anxiety such that we can;

  • better explain our troubles to a good listener
  • listen to good advice from people who have been through similar troubles

The trouble with this approach include;

  • The dose is usually too strong (Dr Moncrief writes about this)
  • Drugs are used for too long (All were originally intended for short term use by the scientists who created them – but the marketing people know there is more money to be made when patients fail to recover)
  • Addiction gets worse with time as our bodies adapt to expect to have to cope with toxins everyday
  • Damage is cumulative

These troubles are all obvious, but the other two troubles that make the drug route pretty useless are;

  • We struggle to find good listeners
  • The health service puts us in front of people who have not been through what we are going through and so their advice is rarely much use

So, when you read the side-effects of carbamazepine… really, pretty similar to most psychiatric drugs. These drugs are never going to be part of a cure unless short-term and matched up with talking (listening/talking) therapies.

I have to add that it is almost always dangerous to come off any drug quickly. Change has to start with better lifestyle and that usually needs to include better nutrition.


You did not have bipolar disorder after all #bipolarlabel #bipolardiagnosis

A few weeks ago a reader added this comment,

People who recover after a bipolar diagnosis are ones who never truly had bipolar to begin with

David is not the first person to say this to me. It is certainly an idea I have thought about a lot. It is a fair comment as those who are convinced they have a disorder without recovery, rarely make good long-term recoveries. Certainly, recovery can be limited by anyone who tells us we have a specific disorder and by those who say, ‘No one ever fully recovers.’

Around the world, millions of people are being mis-diagnosed without much evidence of extreme manic and depressive episodes. I was told I had manic depression then told I had bipolar. The drugs I was told to take for bipolar helped me feel better for a while then gradually made me less and less well. The drugs eventually became the main cause for my worsening symptoms. To survive I had to take less drugs. Eventually my doctor said I did not need the psychiatric drugs at all.

Just a few days of using the Mood Mapping grid is all it takes for most people to realize they are not so bipolar after all. Using mood mapping reminds us that we all experience a range of moods and we find bipolarity is still very rare. There certainly is no clear-cut line between a ‘bipolar person’ and a ‘non-bipolar person’. Everyone has emotions and everyone can struggle with their emotions but while there is a diagnosis of bipolar there will always be people who can accept the label and others who reject the label.

I was taking the psychiatric drugs; believing in the bipolar diagnosis, attending bipolar meetings, facilitating a group for people with the bipolar diagnosis and so on. I had extremes of mood and there were plenty of health professionals saying I needed the drugs. Like many other people I have successfully withdrawn from the drugs. It was a slow process taking me 12 years. I have changed my life and increased the ways I have cope with stress to do this.

I recognize that a lot of people continue to find drugs a useful tool to help to manage from day-to-day. If; the drugs are helping you feel better, you are happy with your level of fitness and you are fully aware of any long-term drug effects then it is understandable that you want to stick with the drug and diagnosis. If the drugs and diagnosis are not working for you or you find you become troubled by the longer term effects of drugs and diagnosis then it is best not to rule out a change to either/both.

Caring and love from a better understanding

…first walk a mile in their shoes

My intention was to be writing about Mood Mapping. Instead I have found myself as a full-time carer for a very special friend. She is in hospital suffering from total exhaustion. This new role has given me a new insight into the pain relatives face when dealing with a system that just does not seem to care.

I feel I have been inadequate. I am fortunate in knowing more about the mental illness system than most supporters but this just creates more frustration as the routes for helping that are supposed to be there, are not. The reality is that we cannot rely on professionals to solve our friends’ troubles.

One way I have been able to be supportive has been to stay at my friend’s house looking after pets and doing what I can to help those she was supporting. By essentially putting myself in the exact place in society occupied by my friend my appreciation for what keeps her well and what distresses her has grown beyond anything any professional staying in a hospital setting is ever going to know.

A lot of people need and want help from my friend, but these people have been unable to give the loving support she used to have from her father… OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not got much idea what love is… it is just that this experience has shown me that it is a key in helping us stay well.


People in the UK have largely the USA version of bipolar disorder (a diagnosis created in the USA in 1980). We have often heard;

“has always been around” – It is not true.


“is just the same as the old manic depression diagnosis”- Also not true. Why?


“people can be born with bipolar disorder” – Not true. More on genetics

Through Rethinking Bipolar, I am sharing as much as I can of my 16 years studying, writing and teaching about manic depression / bipolar disorder. He’s a few bullet points:

  • It does not have to be for life
  • It does not always have to be treated with drugs
  • It is not a separate illness
  • It is not distinguishable from other forms of emotional distress
  • When we take time to look we usually find physical causes that can be eliminated
  • Eliminating causes can allow a whole new life – you may still feel ‘a bit bipolar’ but now without the disorder part

Help with identifying causes of disorders usually enables recovery and long lasting well-being.

Please read more, watch videos and seek out alternative views. If not convinced that great recoveries are possible please come back here again in a few months as I am keen to share more of what I have learned.

Does the USA need to lead the way? The bipolar diagnosis was created in the USA. The rest of the world has followed. Adopting American style diets and lifestyles has weakened young people’s coping mechanisms leading to more emotional distress. I believe it needs people in the USA regain hope, rethink what is meant by ‘bipolar’ and make the choices necessary to lead the world in eliminating the disorder. I am hoping I can help, although rather isolated from where the highest rates of bipolar are in the USA.

Here are just some of those who have so far been involved, supported, contributed or shared some great ideas to help with Rethinking Bipolar:

Tom Whootton, San Fransisco, USA – author of ‘Bipolar IN Order’:

Sean Blackwell, Canada/Brazil – author of ‘Am I Bipolar or Just Waking Up?’:

Robert Whitaker, USA – author of ‘Mad in America’:

Dr Liz Miller, London, UK – author of: Mood Mapping

Jeremy Thomas who has supported Roger since exchanging our first books at a bipolar conference in 2005…

Becky Shaw co-author (with Roger) of the Advance Statement Workbook and many research articles about emotional disorders, recovery, well-being and developing resilience

Danny Walsh, Lincoln, UK – co-author with Roger of our 2012 Bipolar Disorder handbook

Others who are supporting Rethinking Bipolar include Marian Moore who provided an article and Simon who has been gradually eliminating my typing mistakes and helping it all make sense to those who do not have direct experience of the most extremes of moods and behavior.


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