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March 26, 2021

How to Cope With a Moody Roommate

By Steven Booth, Co-Founder, Elevation Behavioral Health

Living with another human being is always going to be challenging. Whether we live with a spouse, a romantic interest, or a roommate there are bound to be some hurdles to overcome. However, the problems escalate when one of the parties happens to be moody.

Let’s take the moody roommate. Bunking with someone, whether a friend, a colleague, or a perfect stranger, is especially tough. With no romantic ties to help smooth out the difficulties experienced in a roommate situation, the moodiness can be grating to the point where it affects your own wellbeing.

When living with an especially moody person daily life can be fraught with frustration, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and just downright confusion. For these reasons, learning how best to manage this type of living environment is key. Coping methods can help the person on the receiving end of the moodiness to significantly improve their quality of life.

What is Moodiness?

When discussing moodiness it is important to recognize the wide range of symptoms. When we think of moodiness we are often referring to someone who walks through life with a dark cloud over their head, on the brink of tears. They may regularly shift between sad and happy moods, keeping the people around them off balance. Sometimes their moods are peppered with angry outbursts. There are many ways to define moodiness. Some of the possible reasons for the moody behavior might include:

  • Moody behavior may be a learned personality trait rooted in childhood. Possibly as a child the roommate had a parent that exhibited moodiness or mood swings, and mimics this learned method of self-expression.
  • Moodiness might be related to some chronic frustration that they are responding to, meaning that the other person may well be a party in eliciting these responses.
  • Possibly the individual never learned emotional regulation skills and is developmentally behind in executive functioning.

However, when moodiness goes beyond bad moods, irritability, or hypersensitivity, it might be a symptom of a mental health disorder. Several mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders, ADHD, and substance use disorders list mood swings as a characteristic trait. Mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar may also be at the center of the moodiness.

7 Tips for Living With a Moody Roommate

A moody roommate can test even the most patient person. When he or she is struggling with a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, it can be even harder to know how to behave around him or her. Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Have a candid conversation. Find a quiet, calm moment to have a chat with the roommate. Mention that you have noticed they haven’t seemed themselves lately and ask if everything is okay. Mention that you are concerned about them, citing the frequent moodiness. Have an open, candid discussion and together find some solutions to make living together more agreeable.
  2. Avoid enabling or codependency. Sometimes your concern and compassion for a depressed or moody roommate can dip into the realm of codependency. You may find yourself walking on eggshells or over compensating to try to prevent the bad moods. You may attempt to avoid conflicts but still get wrapped up in the roommate’s drama along the way.
  3. Do not take it personally. As hard as this is, try not to absorb the moodiness and take it personally. While it is a natural reaction to feel defensive or hurt, remind yourself that the behavior likely has nothing to do with you. This is especially true when a mood disorder is the cause. Try to separate the outward expressions of their emotional struggle from yourself.
  4. Learn to read the moods. Learning how to read your roommates moods is helpful. When you sense he or she is in a low mood, visibly irritable, or seems anxious it is a good idea to take a walk or go run some errands to allow the mood to hopefully pass. Avoid being drawn into a conflict by sidestepping when you sense the moodiness coming.
  5. Practice self-care. It is stressful living with someone who is unpredictable and moody. This can take a toll on your own health and wellness over time. Take care to practice good self-care on a regular basis. This can be as simple as taking a couple of yoga classes each week or splurging on a nice massage once a month. Also, practicing mindfulness meditation can help rein in the negative thoughts and bring about a sense of calm.
  6. Encourage them to be evaluated. When your roommate is exhibiting ongoing signs of moody behavior there may be a mental health issue at hand. Especially worrisome is when the moodiness is accompanied by changes in eating or sleeping habits, cognitive issues, trouble making decisions, unexplained euphoria, or impulsivity. These are signs of a mental health disorder. Offer to assist them in locating a therapist to speak with or to accompany the roommate to their first therapy session.
  7. Be proactive if it escalates. If your roommate seems to be displaying the troubling signs of suicidal ideation, take immediate action. Offer to drive them to see their therapist if depression has worsened. If the suicide warning signs are evident, contact their family and then offer to drive the roommate to the hospital or a residential mental health treatment program for acute stabilization and treatment. If the situation is beyond your scope, call 911 and stay with the roommate until help arrives.

When All Else Fails, Take Care of Your Own Mental Health

If a roommate’s consistent moodiness does not resolve, regardless of how much you have tried to communicate openly with them, it may be appropriate to relocate to a different living environment. Possibly the roommate hasn’t been compliant with inpatient mental health treatment, or refuses to even get help. As much as you might genuinely care about this individual, your own mental health will be at risk if you continue to be exposed to their emotional instability.

About the Author

Steven Booth is the CEO and Founder of Elevation Behavioral Health in Agoura Hills, CA. Steven earned his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Economics. Before helping to co-found Elevation Behavioral Health, Steven worked in both private and public accounting. Like many others, Steven has seen firsthand the destruction that addiction can inflict on family and friends. He has also witnessed the extraordinary changes that can be made when addicts receive the necessary treatment. His passion is providing outstanding mental health care through his facility, and improving the quality of life of clients.

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