Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
July 28, 2021
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

What are mood swings?

APA defined mood swing as a nonspecific term for variation in mood. This feeling usually ranges between happiness and sadness. Wherein the intensity can range from normal fluctuations to pathological disturbances.

Mood swing is a sudden or intense change in emotional state. The person often experiences quick changes from feeling of happiness to feeling sadness. Irritability, anger, and even depression.

List of common causes of mood swings

Mood swings when they become frequent and intense, affect the person.  For example, it can affect work and relationships. This is something that we must be aware of because it can be a sign of other conditions that need treatment.

Being aware of the common causes of this condition can help and guide us to have awareness. Changes in our internal body take place and it usually affects our mood. Internal feelings will not suffice our emotions alone. Because external factors can affect our response to our feelings.

For example, stress at home, school, and work affect our emotions. In short, environmental experiences has impact on the well-being of the person.

Illness and Injury

Mood swings cover the emotional root. Changes that the person feels connect to underlying chronic disease or acute injuries. These injuries can cause an impact to the brain that results in mood swings.

The injuries can cause problems in the brain and affect its behavioral function. That is usually related to neural dysfunction in neural circuits.

Other medical conditions, like neurological conditions that can contribute to mood swings. Some studies state that certain types of neurological dysfunctions relates to mood.  Neurological conditions affect the mood and it can result in sudden shifts of mood.

These conditions can include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Diabetes is affecting the mood of a person because of glycemic variability. 

Study shows that greater variability of glycemic links with lower quality of life. Also, negative moods. multiple sclerosis is affecting the mood.

Because it is a condition that causes impact to parts of the brain that control mood. This condition affects the person’s emotions. Its common symptoms are mood changes.

Lasty, Parkinson’s disease affects mood swings. Because these fluctuations relate to motor fluctuations. Reports show that people with advanced Parkinson’s disease patients experience mood fluctuation. Two-thirds of patients suffer from mood fluctuation due to motor fluctuations.

Developmental Stages

The age of 3 or 4 is the start for the children to understand their emotions but they also have little control over it. At this point, drastic changes in their mood is evident.

Yet, these changes are a normal  part of emotional development. Kids experience temper tantrums and mood swings. Then, learn about their emotions, work and others. 

Usually, kids laugh right away when they find something funny. Then, they cry when they feel sad or angry.

Generally, at this stage,  they are ruled by their emotions and changes in moods are observable. It is important to take note that mood swings in children can be a sign of mental health disorder.  Like learning disability, or physical ailment.

Allergies

When a person is not feeling okay there is a tendency that they feel irritable. Or have trouble concentrating. There are allergies that can cause headaches and sore throats.

People who suffer from symptoms like sneezing, sniffling, itchy eyes feel miserable. Some studies show an association between seasonal allergies and clinical depression.

When a person suffers from certain allergies it can actually affect their moods. Especially if it can cause them fatigue. Study shows that more than a third of people with allergies feel depressed. Over half of the respondents feel miserable and irritable.

Furthermore, studies show that people with allergic rhinitis also suffer from non-nasal symptoms.  Like fatigue and depression aside from nasal symptoms.

Moreover, link is possible between allergic rhinitis and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Certain evidence elucidates that the mechanism of the two are similar.

Medications

Using medication or even stopping it can have side effects on one’s mood. For example, the use of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. It can affect a person’s mood. While medications used to treat other conditions, it can also cause mood swings as a side effect.

Mood changes are typical symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions. Some medications that are being used to treat these disorders can affect mood. It is important to note that sometimes, this mood swings can mean that it isn’t the right treatment.

List of common triggers of mood swings

Stress

People feel stress when they are facing unfavorable circumstances. In which they feel frustrated, annoyed, or nervous. Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension or the body’s response to pressure.

Dealing with a new or unexpected situation is a trigger to stress. Because it endangers our selves or if we have little control about the situation. In this manner, it can result in a sudden change of mood.

Physical and emotional symptoms can be a sign of stress. Sometimes, people don’t realize that what they are experiencing is actually stress. This condition then affects the body and health of the person that can lead to shifts in mood.

A significant change in life

This event is one of the triggers of mood swings. It can be an event or occurrence in one’s life. It can depict loss or gain. Positive or negative events. When a significant change in one’s life happens, life will never be the same.

These changes include: marriage, divorce, terminal disease, career change, relocation, and many more. These changes can be abrupt and impact the emotionality of a person.

For example, divorce is a stressful and unsettling event. This major setback can trigger all sorts of emotions. Ending a relationship means that all sorts of routines as a couple can be challenging as well. Moreover, volatile emotions are  associated with divorce.

Diet

Some research indicates a rapid rate link between mood and the role of diet and nutrition. Evidence highlights the role of food. In the development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions.

It’s undeniable that unhealthy eating patterns can cause mood swings. This is due to nutritional imbalances and sugar fluctuations.

Furthermore, other evidence shows that our diet affects our physical health. Also our feelings. That’s why if one has a good diet, it can help to improve mood, provide energy, and think .

Sleeping habit

Sleep is essential to the health and well-being of everyone. A quality sleep at the right time can result in improved well-being. It helps our mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

Because when we are sleeping, our body is working to aid healthy brain functions. Sleep even supports growth and development in children and teens.

Studies emphasized that sleep deficiency can affect some parts of the brain. When a person has less sleep it can cause a negative impact. Resulting in having trouble making decisions, difficulty in controlling emotions and behavior.  Coping with change can be a challenge.

Deprivation in sleep reports to increase negative moods . For example, frustration, irritability, and sadness and the positive mood decreases.  It is also linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Low blood  sugar

Blood sugar level affects the mood of the person. These rapid mood changes happen because of changes in blood glucose. During hypoglycemic episodes the blood sugar level drops. It drops to 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Pregnancy

When a woman gets pregnant, body changes happen to prepare in maintaining life. The levels of pregnancy hormones, estrogen and progesterone hormones increase in the blood.

These pregnancy hormones are essential for healthy pregnancy. But, it can have unwanted side effects. Pregnant women experience morning sickness and tiredness also experiences mood swings whereas they feel like crying, overwhelmed, and sometimes irritated. In short, when a person is pregnant they are prone to emotional vulnerability.

PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of symptoms.  Women feel it about a week or two before their period. 90% of women experience premenstrual symptoms.

Mood symptoms are present for a specific period of time. These symptoms emerge one to two weeks. Before menses and resolve completely with the onset of menses.

The symptoms vary from each woman and it varies each month as well. There are common symptoms of PMS. These include mood swings, feeling upset, anxious, or irritable. As well as, exhaustion, boating, headaches, and many more.

What do mood swings feel like?

An intense change in emotional state is indicative of mood swings. The sudden switch of moods allows the person to experience a different range of emotions. Mood swings are feeling irritated one minute and then feeling happy later on. It can also exhibit emotions that are damaging to one’s life.

For example, a person may feel excited that they have trouble controlling their urges. In result, they will spend money, confront people, and engage in risky behaviors.

The sudden shift  of moods can cause them difficulty to manage their emotions. That can cause unfavorable results. It’s like a roller-coaster ride, sometimes they feel up and down.

What does it mean when a girl has mood swings?

Because of hormonal changes in women, they are more prone to mood swings as compared to men. These hormonal shifts result in changes in mood.

There are predictors of mood swings in females like Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is the severe form of PMS.

Why do females have mood swings during periods?

When it is the time of the month, women feel a different range of moods. Females became temperamental to a certain degree. Although, the cause of mood swings during periods are not clear. Hormone is an acceptable culprit and explanation to the changes of mood.

Estrogen is an important hormone that helps in mood regulation. After ovulation it decreases to start menstruation. The fluctuation of hormones plays an important role.

The ratio of estrogen to progesterone is important as well. Whereas, the dominance of estrogen links with mood swings. Relating to irritability and anger. The dominance of progesterone links with low mood, weepiness, anxiety, and low self-confidence.

What are the conditions that affect mood swings?

There are certain days when we experience happiness or feel sadness. Sometimes our mood changes depending on the situation we are in. It is normal to experience changes in moods as long as it doesn’t interfere with our way .

So, we need to be aware whether the rapid changes of mood are within normal range. Because this condition can be an indicator of a serious health issue. That needs immediate intervention.

Mental health conditions

Mental health covers the emotional, psychological, and social aspect of the person. This can impact our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral well-being. Good mental health helps in coping with stress. It also helps in connecting to others, and making choices in life. It plays an important role in all aspects and stages of human life.

There are contributing factors  that contribute to mental health problems. This includes biological factors, life experiences, and family history.

Mental illness is a condition that affects  thinking, feeling, and behavior of a person. It impacts the normal functioning of the  person. It can affect the personal, social, and work relationship of the individual.

1. Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that depicts inconsistent changes in mood. It causes change in energy, activity levels, and concentration. It also affects the day to day task of the person.

2. Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder. The person experiences mood swings  for over a period of years. It goes from mild depression to emotional highs.

3. Major depressive disorder: Depression is a serious medical illness. It is different from feeling sad. The feelings don’t go away and can interfere with daily life.

The symptoms of depression includes:

  • Feeling sad
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Change of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
  • Somatic pains (aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Dysthymia
  • Dysthymia is a milder form of depression. But, it is long lasting. It is also known as persistent depressive disorder. Those with this condition sometimes experience major depression.
  • Personality disorders

This is a group of mental illnesses. Personality disorders involve long-term patterns of thoughts and behaviors. Usually this pattern is unhealthy and rigid.

These behaviors often impact the relationship of the person. Often, people with this condition have difficulty in dealing with stress and problems.

Moreover, each personality disorder has different symptoms. Ranges from mild to severe. For example, people with borderline personality disorder have intense episodes of emotions.

They may experience anger, depression, and anxiety that last from a few hours to days. This illness is an  ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior.

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). This is a childhood condition that experiences extreme emotions. It includes irritability, anger, frequent intense temper outbursts.  

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is more than being a mood child. Because children with this condition can experience severe impairment that needs intervention.

Hormonal conditions

The endocrine system produces a chemical known as hormones. These chemicals then release into the bloodstream. Too much and too little of these chemicals lead to imbalance.

Hormones are essential because they regulate many processes in the body. These are responsible for appetite and metabolism, sleep cycles, reproductive cycles. Also, in sexual functions, body temperature, and mood.

So, mood swings are a sign that there is hormonal imbalance. Because the female sex hormone estrogen affects neurotransmitters in the brain. It affects serotonin which handles boosting mood.

Substance use

The use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs can cause mood swings. Some psychoactive substance affects the mood. Frequent consumption of drinks and drugs then affect the brain chemistry. Making the person more susceptible to mood swings.

For example, psychoactive drugs cause mood states to change and fluctuate. Wherein the vital factor of drug-induced distress is mood instability. This substance makes the person prone to mood swings.

Whereas on-drug mood gains follow by depletion of neurochemicals. The rebound moods are negative and aversive. That’s why the user is ready to take drugs again to reverse the feelings.

Other health/physical conditions

1. Alzhemeir’s disease: It is an irreversible and progressive brain disorder. Alzheimer’s disease affects memory and thinking skills. Then even the ability to perform simple tasks can be difficult.

Mood swings are one of the distressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Whereas patients with this condition often appear calm for a while and then cry. They even get angry for no specific reason.

2. Coronary heart disease: Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease. It develops when the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen to the heart.

When a person suffers from a heart attack, it also affects other aspects of their life. It includes attitude and mood, certainty about life, confidence, guilt, and embarrassment.

There are even numbers of individuals who experience heart attacks and develop depression. While people with depression develop heart disease.

3. Stroke: It is a disease that affects the arteries that lead to and within the brain. Strokes occur when there is a blockage in a blood vessel. That carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Either by a clot or burst. When the brain cannot receive blood with oxygen, the brain cells die.

Person who suffers from a stroke can be in a state of shock. It is very sudden that it can affect the everyday life of the individual. They experience all sorts of emotions.  Some feel anxiety, frustration, anger, and depression. 

4. Thyroid disorders: Thyroid disease is a general term for medical conditions with regards to thyroid. Wherein the thyroid is not producing the right amount of hormones.

Hormones are essential because it keeps the normal functioning of the body. When a person experiences hypothyroidism it means a problem in hormone production. The thyroid glands don’t produce enough hormones.

When it happens symptoms occur. It includes loss of appetite, lack of concentration, sleeping difficulty, and  lower motivation. Additionally, mood swings, short temper, depression, and stress. Then, hyperthyroidism happens due to overactive thyroid.

This time, there’s increased hormone production. The person will experience  different symptoms. It includes panic attacks, anxiety, tension, mood swings, and impatience.

How to treat mood swings?

Mood swings can be an indicator of serious health problems. Good news! There’s a natural way and solutions that can help us. To combat the problem and to prevent any serious problems.

Keep a schedule

Scheduling is an art of planning activities. Keeping a schedule helps in efficient and effective realization of goals and activities. It allows the person to be mindful of their time and establish balance.

Exercise

Doing a physical activity can help in improving strength and endurance. It can also stimulate brain chemicals that can improve the mood. It helps to make a person feel more happy and less anxious.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important because it helps the person to achieve optimal health. Enough sleep is essential. Because it helps in the prevention of weight gain, heart disease, and other illnesses. In short, it is good for the general well-being of the person.

Eat a healthy diet

Healthy diet is vital for good health and nutrition. It can protect the person from many chronic noncommunicable diseases. The field of nutritional psychiatry explains the link between gut health and diet. Wherein it has a positive or negative impact on one’s mood.

Practice relaxation

Practicing relaxation helps in reducing stress and symptoms of mental health conditions. Like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. It also has other health related benefits. It can help in lowering heart rate, reducing muscle tension, and improving mood.

Avoid stress

Stress can also have a positive effect. But, long-term stress can cause serious health problems. Preventing and managing stress is beneficial.

Although, stress is hard to avoid. But, there are ways to manage it. It is important to have time to relax, eat healthy, talk to others, and be mindful.

Express yourself

Expressing the self can help the person to let their mental processes be out. Expressing can help in controlling one’s own thoughts and feelings. It also aids in clear understanding.

When a person expresses themselves, they are able to release the tension. Allows the individual to keep in touch with their feelings. Resulting in better emotion management.

Talk it out

Expressing feelings or talking about it is healthy. The brain processes and assigns an emotion to every experience. Expressing the feelings in proper ways is vital. Because it helps to process healthy emotions.

Emotions are part of our lives. It’s okay to feel different emotions. We experience emotions to some degree and range. What’s important is that we must be aware of what emotions exceed a normal range.

Being aware of certain moods that interfere with our way of life is essential. We are not alone in this situation. We have the capacity to help ourselves. Identifying the cause of our fluctuating moods is a first step.

Of course, prevention is much better. Having a healthy lifestyle can protect us. It can improve our health and life.

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