Have you ever been happy one second, then the next you feel angry or sad? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. As humans, we experience a wide range of emotions every day and it is natural to feel sad after receiving bad news or elated after getting the job offer you’ve been wanting. However, drastic, sudden, or random mood swings, such as switching from extreme happiness to extreme sadness- especially if it impacts someone’s life, can be classified as a mental health condition and mood disorder. Mood disorders are frequently referred to as the intense fluctuation in mood or emotional state that disrupts daily functioning. Experiencing frequent mood swings on a regular basis can interfere with the overall quality of life.
Mood swings in women
Due to the monthly hormonal cycle of women, they are subject to mood changes that are driven by underlying hormonal changes. Hormones, even though secreted within the body, are powerful chemicals that can precipitate significant changes in mood. Some women’s moods are not at all affected by hormonal changes, while others can experience severe shifts in mood. Given that we cannot control our internal release of emotions, it’s important for women to note that everybody is different, that the hormonally-driven mood shifts are not their fault, and that there are effective treatments to improve their suffering.
There are a range of hormonally-driven mood disorders in women:
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – often appears one to two weeks prior to a period and is a combination of symptoms that include bloating, moodiness (i.e., mood swings), fatigue, or depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – PMDD is similar to PMS, but it’s symptoms are more severe. It can cause severe depression, anxiety, and shifts in mood
- Perimenopausal mood disorders: Menopause (defined as a year with no menstruation), and the years before and after, is a time of heightened mood disorders for women. This can even include a first time episode of anxiety or depression.
Medical Illness driven mood shifts:
There are a number of medical conditions that may cause mood shifts. This can include hormonal disorders (such as thyroid issues), structural medical illnesses such as cardiac (heart-related) disorders, cancer, and others. For example, hyperthyroidism (i.e. overactive thyroid) can cause someone to feel anxious, on edge and irritable. And hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) may make someone feel lethargic and depressed.
Mood swings can not only be attributed to medical conditions, but they can be caused by:
- Sleep deprivation
- Low blood sugar
- Substance use
It is important to speak with your doctor to determine what the cause of your mood swings are to support a healthy quality of life.
Mood swings in men
While historical gender norms often stereotype women as “moody” or over-emotional, what about men? Men are also subject to hormonally driven mood shifts. Men may experience hormonal changes that can result in changes in mood and cognition. For example, researchers have found that having low testosterone is associated with mental health and for some can cause brain fog, low energy and lower mood.
Given the interplay of hormone levels, medical illness and mood, it’s always important to keep regular medical exams to always explore the underlying cause of mood shifts.
What else causes mood swings?
Not only can several medical conditions and environmental factors cause mood swings, there are also several common triggers. These can include any of the following:
- Sleep hygiene
- Hormonal imbalances
- Developmental stages in children
- Illness and injury
Among other things, your mood swings can be a symptom of a more serious health issue.
How can I treat my mood swings?
You may think it is a simple solution for treating your mood swings, but more severe cases such as bipolar disorder require professional mental health attention. Recognizing your triggers can help to a certain extent, but sometimes our mood swings are uncontrollable. In order to effectively treat your mood swings, it is best to discuss with your medical provider to determine if an underlying medical and/or mental health condition is the root cause of your mood swings. Often medications such as mood stabilizers are prescribed in addition to psychotherapy or counseling to treat them.
If you’re looking for lifestyle changes to improve mood fluctuations, keeping a regular sleep schedule (e.g., 11 AM – 7 AM) can reduce the severity and likelihood of mood shifts. Getting regular exercise can often reduce the effect of hormonal imbalances (which can result in mood swings). While exercising, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which can trigger a positive feeling in the body and reduce stress. If you struggle with any substance abuse in your life, it may be beneficial to address those issues. Oftentimes, substances interfere with the naturally occurring chemicals in our brain and can affect their efficacy.
Some degree of fluctuation in mood is a normal part of life, but when it begins to interfere with the quality of life, it becomes a problem. Discuss with your medical team to determine what causes your mood swings and the best treatment option for you