Labile mood

What does labile mood mean?

Labile mood is a medical, psychological and psychiatric term.

It is used to describe people who experience irregular emotional responses.

Labile mood is associated with severe mood swings and with intense emotional reactions.  Often the emotions will be particularly strong and disproportionate to the situation the person is in.  Labile mood indicates that there is little control around emotional responses.  It indicates a low ability to handle and process frustration.

Someone who experiences labile mood may find it difficult to understand emotions and will quickly move to an extreme response and reaction which would appear to be out of proportion to the experience.

A labile mood can be related to conditions such as borderline personality disorder.  It may appear as part of a presentation that would include manic and hyper manic episodes.

How does labile mood develop?

It may develop suddenly as a reaction to a head or brain injury.  It may develop as part of a response to growing up in an environment in which there was poor emotional or affect regulation.

  • If as a small child you were exposed to sudden and unpredictable changes in a parents’ mood
  • If the environment you were in suddenly became dominated by a parents’ difficult mood swings, then it is likely that you will struggle to learn how to regulate your own emotional responses.

Ideally a parent helps their child learn about the moods and emotions they experience

If a child gets into an emotional state then the parent helps them out of it.  All being well, this leads to the child learning how to move around their emotions.  A child in this situation would grow up knowing their emotions are part of them.

But if it did not work like this, and if the parent was themselves someone who would have sudden powerful and possibly very frightening mood changes, then the child has very limited opportunities to learn about mood regulation.

As a consequence, emotions are likely to provoke anxiety and stress.

Stress leads to the over production of hormones like cortisol and noradrenaline which have a powerful effect on our brain chemistry which in a small child can easily lead to embedding states of anxiety and stress.

As the child grows and matures their emotional response system is set to hyper vigilance rather than a more ordinary manageable and constructive setting.

What is it like to experience labile mood?

  • it will make relationships very difficult
  • it is likely that you will find it hard to trust,
  • will see the worst in a situation,
  • become very anxious over the smallest thing.

Left untreated it may lead to isolation, loneliness and in an extreme form, paranoia.  It will make it very hard to concentrate and do well at school and make it very hard for you to develop your potential.

How to treat labile mood?

If you are coming to the question of your own labile mood as an adult there are probably two support systems that you will need to try to put in place to help you.

One, will be medical.  It may well be helpful to see your GP to discuss this.  It may be possible to be referred for a psychiatric assessment.  There are drugs and medicines available that can help balance the extreme range of emotional swings.  These drugs will have side effects and you would need to work with your GP and psychiatrist to check on the way the medication is effecting you.

Two, working in psychotherapy would give you the chance to build up a greater understanding of the mood swings you go through.  Psychotherapy can help you develop insight and understanding into yourself and into where these mood swings started.  It also works through the development of the therapeutic relationship.

In psychotherapy there is a possibility of developing the sense of trust in someone and this can go a long way into helping to give you greater confidence with your emotions.  If you can start to develop a sense of trust in the psychotherapy relationship you may well be able to build upon that and start to develop other areas of your life as well.

How can Counselling Buckinghamshire help?

Left unchecked, the experience of labile mood can have a profound impact on life. You may find yourself trapped in feelings and find it hard to develop any insight into what they relate to.

At Counselling Buckinghamshire we have a depth of experience of working with people who are trying to come to terms with this kind of experience. 

Contact now for a free telephone consultation to discuss how our approach may be relevant to you.