Extreme mood dependant recall and mania/depression

February 3, 2011

In psychology class I learned about something called mood dependant recall. It basically means that we’re more likely to remember times when we felt the same as we do just now. When we are distressed, we are more likely to remember other times when we were distressed, perhaps even recall events we haven’t thought of for a while. 

I have experienced extreme states and rapidly changing moods. For weeks or months at a time my mood becomes fragile and I can start crying for no reason, or go from elated to angry, and my thoughts go so fast and get tangled up. Then it might slow down and i’ll be normal for a month or six months or nearly a year… Sometimes I feel great, so on top of the world, but eventaully I can’t slow down and I get extremely anxious and angry. I admit this must be mania.  

I believe an extreme case of mood-dependant recall might be what makes these extreme states so troubling.

I remember once incident where I was flying high at a piano recital. I felt wonderful and wasn’t nervous at all, but a friend of mine began to cry because of stage fright. I was utterly perplexed. I couldn’t understand her distress. I searched my own memories long and hard and came up with nothing that would ever have gave me reason to cry. Nothing. My life had been wonderful, it had been fantastic. I beleived this through and through, and I asked her disbelievingly. “Why are you crying? There has never been a reason in the world to cry and there shall never be one again.” I honestly believed this at the time. My other friends must have not heard me as they were busy consoling her.  I wandered off, profoundly confused.

Later that night all the bad things in my life would come flooding back to me again, and it would shake my opinions and beliefs about life itself. I had thought life was wonderful and would always be wonderful. Now I knew it would not be. I felt betrayed. After a while all the good things that had happened to me, all of the times that I felt good would dissipear. I would go looking for them and they would be gone. I concluded that my life had been horrible since the begining and there was no reason to go on. I lost all hope and wondered out of my house late that night wondering how far it was to the train tracks. Because i’m terrified of the dark, I didn’t get but a block away before I turned back home, tremebling with tears and digging my fingernails into my palms. This type of thing could happen several times a month.

Then I caught on. I began writing notes to myself when I had posession of a full range of memories.  I kept a journal, I’d even write on my skin or stick postits everywhere reminding me to do things. I felt like a detective. I had to read through old emails, my journal and talk to people to find out what happened the previous day, and eventually I would remember. But there seemed to be an initial block that was difficult to get past.

Even seeing a post it note reminding me to take my vitimins was enough to clue me in that I had severe memory problems, and my judgement about whether or not to live would probably be scewed. I felt like Lucy from 50 first dates. For a period of time, I would have to realize all over again, for the first time, that I was severely sick. I’d have to accept it all over again. Everything was so extreme, so black and white.

It was much like practicing lucid dreaming. Before I fall asleep sometimes I tell myself  “You are about to enter the dream world. You will not remember me giving you this message, but I want you to remember the content. Reach out and touch things, see if they seem real. You may be dreaming.” After a few nights I eventually realize that I am dreaming. I reach out and touch things; they seem so real yet I always come to the conclution that I am dreaming. I never come to the wrong conclusion when I’m awake. It’s something I’ve always been able to do, even as a child. I think being able to differentiate between realities has contributed immensly to my recovery.

I took fish oils which helped with my memory immensely and helped tone down some of my mood swings. I still take them. It really helped me, but without my method of reminding myself life that my past and my future did not depend on the present, I doubt it would have helped as much.

Perhaps this is why people do things in their manic states they would never otherwise do. Imagine you’re going to do something risky, yet aren’t thinking cleraly enough to remember the times where other people have done risky things and had bad consqiquences. You don’t remember times when you made bad choices, and you don’t remember the logic you use when you are more calm. There seems to be no reason why you shouldn’t do it, beacuse it doesn’t even seem risky. If you want to, you go for it. You have no reason to fear, or so you think. Sometimes you find out later that there are consiquences, perhaps this is what triggers an intense depession.




  1. […] talked about this in a post a bit ago, about mood dependent […]

  2. That’s a very interesting concept. I can see where I’ve done the same thing. Maybe I’ve gone so far in the negative direction that I can hardly remember any good times from early childhood through high school. I have such a pervasive pattern of negative thinking that I’m seemingly wiping all the good memories from my brain. I have some pictures of good times, which trigger other negative thoughts from the same time, so eventually I throw those pictures away. It’s like I’m editing my memories slowly but maybe permanently. That’s a scary thought for multiple reasons.

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