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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • mood;
  • mood stabilizer;
  • mood swing

Safer DJ. Mood swing and mood stabilizer: how specific are these terms? Bipolar Disord 2010: 12: 685–690. © 2010 The Author. Journal compilation © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Background:  In the DSM-IIIR in 1987, the category title for depressive and bipolar disorders was changed from affective disorders to mood disorders. Within a short period of time thereafter, mood swing and mood stabilizer became very commonly used terms in psychiatry with bipolar implications.

Methods:  Terms and definitions in recent texts, articles, and dictionaries pertaining to mood fluctuations have been reviewed.

Results:  The term mood was seldom part of psychiatric terminology until the late 1970s. Mood swing and mood stabilizer as used in the psychiatric literature are primarily nonspecific and often misleading concepts—particularly as a basis for treatment decisions. Affective fluctuations and shifts to irritability and/or anger in persons with personality and depressive disorders are being viewed by many in the mental health field as cyclically biphasic—between depressed to elated—which is clearly at variance with research findings.

Conclusions:  More data-based research on mood variations is needed to authoritatively remedy this situation.