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In addition to the Triggergrams I recently discussed, Moodscope Plus has another data display: Affectograms! “In one simple chart which takes the form of a ‘heat map’ you’ll be able to see at a glance how your scores for all twenty emotions have varied over the past 28 days.”

This is the report that I wanted from Day One of using Moodscope. There’s a lot more data being recorded than just your daily score, and having access to the details has been very enlightening to me.

My Moodscope Affectogram for late February 2012 through late March 2012

I think this is a pretty intuitive graph, and the Moodscope team have done a brilliant job of including all the information you’d need to put the data in context. It even shows the numeric score and your notes when you mouse-hover over the scores in the chart.

So here is my reading of this graph:

  • Strattera was really bad for me, and led to low positive moods in late February and early March. My worst days on March 5 and 6 suddenly reversed when I quit taking Strattera on March 7. March 6 would have been a dramatically lower score had I taken the test at noon, possibly my lowest ever, due to a severe medication-induced panic attack that day.
  • March 17 was a gray day and the first time I’d gotten 8 hours of sleep in 2 weeks. Things improved after returning to a little less sleep – 7.5 hours seems to be my ideal.
  • I suffer more from lack of positive affect rather than presence of negative affect. It’s not that I feel bad so much as I just don’t feel good, though I may be taking negative emotions as the status quo. This might have been quite different prior to starting mood stabilizers, which reduce both the bad and the good. Comparison over time would help me learn how well I’m evaluating negative affect.
  • I had a short manic episode from March 21-24 followed by some irritable hypomania. That was partially triggered by turning in my dissertation manuscript, and I also noticed that it was not only unusually sunny and warm that week, but I was outside to enjoy it. The change of seasons is a known factor in bipolar mood swings for many individuals, and this suggests it’s a much more substantial trigger for me than I realized.
  • Irritability should be rated higher much more frequently, but I often can’t tell until later in the day (or even days later) that I was irritable.
  • “Attentive” ratings have little to do with how distracted and/or productive I actually was, probably because these scores are taken before my ADD meds! The dates rated lowest were also when I cut my Concerta dose to make the supply last longer. The days rated highest were the most manic dates, when I was actually most distractable, did not take ADD meds at all, and obviously had the least insight. I was likely conflating alertness with attentiveness. I generally have a very hard time rating my attentiveness, as my early Moodscope scores would show: I consistently rated it low because I’m simply inattentive by nature–and hadn’t taken my meds yet for the day.
  • I’ve been really inactive lately due to 12 hour days at the computer finishing up my dissertation. This is also something I should rate at the end of the day. I was much more active on March 21-25 than the score suggests, and you can see a loose correlation between mood and physical activity when I add in my step count graph from Fitbit: for example, March 8. Causality is not implied, but I suspect it goes both ways.

    My step counts for late February through late March 2012

These data suggest that I can get a better representation of the day if I take the test at the end of the day. This was even easier to see since I often add my notes for the days post hoc, and they tend to be more consistent in terms of overall objectivity. So I’ll be experimenting with changing my mood tracking habits to see if an evening score is more useful than a morning score.

One detail that would help me see trends more easily would be reversing the order of the positive emotions. Currently the lows are shown on top, but it would be more logical for the highs to be shown on top. Mirroring the negative emotions (as they are currently displayed) is also more sensible. This would group the negatives (darker shades) together in the center and the positives (lighter shades) at the outside, so the bars and percentages at the right would become more useful too. This would be much easier to read and interpret appropriately. The daily strength on positives should therefore move to the top to maintain the visual flow. Although the summary would then precede the details, it shouldn’t be a problem for reading the graph and would be a worthwhile tradeoff.

The main new feature I’d like to see (other than data download, image export, and printing) is adjustable date ranges. A larger range of dates would let me compare time periods and do much more detailed analysis. I want to see what this would have looked like last year, for different treatments, and during known mood episodes, as the picture might look quite different.

Don’t get me wrong – I simply love the Affectograms! They are very helpful for better understanding what is really influencing my moods more specifically, and I think they would even be useful to take to my therapy appointments. The Affectogram shows me when situational trends are distinct from specific triggering events, so I have a better sense of the different influences on my moods. That helps me better prepare for and handle these situations in the future, or at least accept that the challenges I may be facing are in fact situational and not my fault. Kudos to Moodscope for this awesome feature!