Moods: Up, Down, Gray .. Feelings Change during Day

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

Moods: Up, Down, Gray .. Feelings Change during Day


Byline: Shelley Widhalm, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Tracking moods every hour for a few weeks can show they are not all black and white, says Lourdes Griffin, administrator of Outpatient Behavior Health Services at Washington Hospital Center in Northwest.

"Most of us have some fluctuations in our moods throughout the day," says Ms. Griffin, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. "Moods are the way we interpret what is happening in our world, and it's the way we feel."

But what exactly is a mood?

At the most basic level, moods can be depressed, elevated or anxious, or they can be euthymic in the middle metro-area psychologists and psychiatrists say.

But defining mood is like defining color, because moods, though they are universal and everyone experiences them, are personal, says Dr. Joseph Schwartz, clinical director of psychiatry at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, Md.

The word "mood" often is used interchangeably with "emotion," and definitions for can overlap, Ms. Griffin says.

Dr. Daniel Z. Lieberman describes mood as an enduring emotional tone and emotion as a short-term response to the things that happen to a person.

"The mood we're in is going to have a bigger effect on our quality of life than the things that happen to us. If our mood isn't good, we can't enjoy these things," says Dr. Lieberman, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University Medical Center in Northwest.

Emotion is briefer in duration and more intense than mood, says James Maddux, psychology professor and director of the clinical psychology doctoral program at George Mason University in Fairfax.

An emotion is a reaction to specific life events, while a mood may not have a cause and can last for hours or days, Mr. Maddux says.

"An emotion is a mental state that arises spontaneously rather than from any conscious effort we make," says Nancy Davis, public health adviser at the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville. "Mood is a persistent state of mind, emotion or feeling."

Moods have a variety of causes, including physiological, psychological and social, Dr. Lieberman says.

The state of a person's body can affect mood, such as being sick or tired, eating poorly or not exercising, as can an optimistic or pessimistic attitude, Dr. Lieberman says.

"You can't change your personality over the short run, but you can change the things you're thinking about. For example, if something is upsetting you, you can make a conscious effort to not think about it," Dr. Lieberman says.

Like defining mood, drawing the line between mood and mood disorders proves to be difficult, Mr. …

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