Causes of Mood Swings

Mood swings are exactly what they sound like: your mood can swing wildly from one emotion to another. For instance, you might be incredibly happy one minute and terribly sad the next, and then go back to happiness. Sometimes the causes of mood swings are clear, such as a particular situation or event that has put you into an emotional tailspin. But some mood swings just happen for no apparent reason. Those who suffer from severe mood swings might notice other problems as well, such as suicidal tendencies, unhealthy attachments to others, and issues with their personal and professional lives. Understanding the causes is the first step toward treating them.

What Causes Mood Swings?

The causes mainly fall into the following aspects. If you can’t clarify the reasons by yourself, consult your doctor.

1.   Hormonal Changes

Significant hormonal changes, such as those endured during puberty, menstrual period or pregnancy, can lead to mood swings. During these times, hormones affect the neurotransmitters in the brain that control mood. The low levels of estrogen in the body due to menopause can also cause a mood problem.

2.   Substance Abuse or Medications

Anything that goes into your body has the potential to change it, including having an effect on mood. Common causes of mood swings include using illicit drugs of any kind. Illicit drugs tend to change the chemistry of the brain, which can lead to issues with mood. Sometimes using legal prescription drugs might have the side effect of messing with hormones. These might include antidepressants, drugs for cholesterol control, Ritalin, blood pressure medications, and some antibiotics.

3.   Stress

The hormones responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response are also responsible for severe mood swings. Stress hormones are dumped into your body during times of intense worry or anxiety, and they then affect your brain chemistry enough to make your moods unpredictable. Though mild stress is actually beneficial, prolonged severe stress can affect the neurotransmitters in a negative way.

4.   Diet

In fact, food is one of the most common causes of mood swings among people of any age. Some studies have shown that a diet high in fat can adversely affect gut microbe, leading to depressive symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on the mood. A deficiency can cause irritability, anger and even depression.

5.   Medical Conditions

Mood swings that come very suddenly for no apparent reason might be due to something wrong inside the body. Mood swings are common indicators of meningitis, stroke, brain tumors, dementia, lung diseases, cardiovascular problems and thyroid issues. The medical treatment of these conditions can help alleviate the mood problem.

6.   Psychological Problems

Extreme mood changes can be linked to some psychological problems. Sometimes the mood swings are the first sign of a problem; in other cases, mood swings go hand-in-hand with the psychological issues.

  • ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has no cure. Poor management can easily cause a sense of inability. The frustration can lead to depression and mood swings.
  • Bipolar disorder: People who suffer from this problem deal with mood swings that are extreme enough to affect their day-to-day life. Even when they realize what is happening, they are unable to control their mood and react appropriately in social situations.
  • IED: Intermittent Explosive Disorder is just what it sounds like. Those with IED might seem perfectly calm at one moment and explode into uncontrollable anger the next, with no apparent reason for the change.
  • BPS: Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the causes of mood swings; it might prevent those who suffer from it from having meaningful relationships.
  • Depression. This is a condition marked by deep sadness followed by other emotions, such as extreme happiness or hysterical fear.

7.   Other Causes

  • Caffeine and sugar. These simple substances can wreck havoc on your mood. Excess caffeine can make you anxious, jittery and annoyed. While sugar can make you quite happy suddenly, the wearing off can make you feel sad and depressed thanks to low energy.
  • Lack of sleep. Those without enough sleep tend to experience much more mood swings, find it more difficult to deal with stress, and suffer from serious irritability.
  • Alcohol use. Drinking alcohol can lead to temporary chemical changes in the brain, which leads to a change in the usual behavior. For instance, some become quite funny after drinking, while others become depressed and quiet. Still, some people might become angry and even violent when they have alcohol in their system.

When to See the Doctor

Though occasional mood swings are a way of life for most, severe mood swings with other troubling symptoms are good cause of immediate medical help. Some dangerous symptoms include:

  • Becoming a threat to yourself or others
  • Seizures
  • Changes in mental status, such as confusion, delusions, etc.
  • Wanting to die and contemplating suicide
  • Dangerous games, such as Russian Roulette or choking games
  • Self-inflicted trauma, such as burns, cuts or eye injuries
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