Causes of Mood Swings
Medically Reviewed by Barb DePree, MD, NCMP,MMM
Director of the Women's Midlife Services at Holland Hospital
You undoubtedly have some days when you're in a better mood than others. On the bad days, you're sad and grumpy and just want to be left alone. The next day, you're content and happy, like you're walking on sunshine. And sometimes, you feel those range of emotions all in the same day. It feels like you're riding an emotional rollercoaster at times.
As long as these mood swings don't disrupt your life or the lives of those around you, these ups and downs are considered normal.
But if your moods swings are frequent and serious, speak with your health care provider. You can discuss possible reasons and find out if you have a medical condition that's causing those mood swings. Then, you can get appropriate treatment.
You may need to get therapy or take medications. You may have to make lifestyle changes like getting plenty of exercise and sleeping and eating healthfully.
Here are some possible reasons behind what may be causing your bumpy ride.
You're going through hormonal changes
You may be moody if you're experiencing shifts in hormones.
You're pregnant: It's totally normal to be moody during pregnancy. You're excited about having a baby. But you're stressed and overwhelmed with all you have to do to prepare and how much your life will change. You're worried if your baby will be healthy and if you'll be a good parent. Mood changes during pregnancy can be caused by physical stress, fatigue, metabolism or the hormones estrogen and progesterone, says the American Pregnancy Association.
You're experiencing menopause: As you go through menopause, your mood can shift quickly. It's likely thanks to your body's fluctuating hormones. In fact, studies have found that up to 23 percent of peri- and postmenopausal women experience mood changes. Find out more about menopause.
You're PMS-ing: Premenstrual syndrome—symptoms you may have a few days before your period—can cause some women to have uncontrollable and wild mood swings. In one day, you go from crying to anxious to angry to emotionally stable. These emotional disturbances are thought to be connected to the rise and fall of hormones, mainly estrogen, during the menstrual cycle. If the emotional swings and other symptoms are really severe, you could have premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.
The unexpected surprises and day-to-day hassles of life—both good and bad—can impact your mood. You get a call that your daughter threw up at school and you have to pick her up ASAP. At the same time, you're assigned a work project that's due tomorrow. It's not surprising that you're suddenly in a bad mood. And if you're a sensitive person, you may react more strongly to situations than others.
You have a mental health condition.
Some mental health conditions can cause mood swings.
You're depressed: Depression is more than just the blues or a bad day, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. It's a medical illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression is diagnosed when you have at least two weeks where you're sad, have a loss of interest in things and have other symptoms like worrying, irritability, pessimism, unexplained aches and pains, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, inability to concentrate, crying spells or recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
You're bipolar: A bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to do daily tasks, says the National Institute of Mental Health. Your mood usually alternate between mania, or extremely "up" mood, and depression, or extremely "down" mood. This mood swing can last hours, days, week or months.
You have ADHD: A person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, the ability to focus on tasks and self-control. Some signs of ADHD include hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsivity. People with ADHD are deeply passionate and have strong emotional reactions that can change their mood dramatically.
You have borderline personality disorder: It's a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image and behavior, says the National Institute of Mental Health. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days. You may have mood swings and be uncertain about your role in the world. You look at things in extremes, like all good or all bad. Your opinions of people can change quickly—you see someone as a friend one day and an enemy the next.
If you're considering self-harm or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It's a free and confidential service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.