It’s normal for your emotions to fluctuate throughout the day. You might feel content upon waking up, exasperated while waiting for a late bus, or ecstatic upon getting a pay raise. But have you ever experienced a rapid change in your emotions, for seemingly no reason?
Mood swings are extreme and sudden changes in a person’s emotional state, usually characterized by alternating feelings of happiness and depression or anger. And while they may seem to come out of nowhere, they aren’t random. Persistent mood swings could be a symptom of an underlying condition or habit. We’ve put together some information that describes some conditions that can cause these changes in your emotional state and how best to manage mood swings when they do happen.
Causes of Mood Swings
Your frustrated or angry reaction to missing an appointment is logical, and your emotional reaction in that situation has an understandable, outside cause. But, mood swings can be caused by a variety of internal conditions and external factors, some involving chemical imbalances in the brain, and others involving outside conditions, such as:
- Stress and anxiety
- Postpartum depression: depression experienced by mothers after giving birth
- Bipolar disorder: a type of depression, characterized by alternating emotional periods of extreme highs and extreme lows
- Borderline personality disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Sleep habits
- Changes caused by the menstrual cycle
Mood Swings in Children Versus Mood Swings in Adults
The underlying conditions that can cause mood swings, such as mood disorders or hormonal changes, affect children and adults differently. Because it’s usually more difficult for children to articulate their mental state, the cause of their mood swings could be misdiagnosed if and when they are evaluated. Children with ADHD, for example, could be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. In reality, they might be dealing with increased irritability as a result of their ADHD: a sudden change in mood when met with a challenging situation might lead to an angry outburst, and the wrong condition could be blamed. This leads to treatment that won’t actually help them manage their symptoms.
Adults, on the other hand, might refuse to seek treatment or not even realize that they’re struggling with a condition. They can also react to hormonal changes differently than children do. For example, women go through menopause, a natural bodily process, later in life. They may experience intense mood swings caused by hormones released during that time. Young girls beginning their menstrual cycles for the first time might also experience mood swings as a result of hormones affecting the chemical balance in their brains.
What are Mood Disorders?
Mood disorders are a category of psychological disorders marked by serious changes in a person’s emotional state. They include seasonal affective disorder, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression. Mood swings are a key symptom of these conditions, which can all have a debilitating effect on a person’s lifestyle. While these disorders may not go away on their own, it is possible to live a healthy, happy life with the help of treatment that allows you to manage your symptoms.
Managing Mood Swings
If you and your doctor haven’t yet been able to determine the cause of your mood swings, here are a few tips that can help you manage your fluctuating emotional state in the meantime.
Better Understand Your Mood Swings by Keeping Track of Them
Your doctor may have you log your moods as part of the diagnosis process, but even people who aren’t challenged with underlying conditions can benefit from keeping track of their emotional state. Either way, if you spend a week jotting down any strong emotions you feel throughout the day, you’ll emerge with a much better understanding of your changing moods. You may also want to write down what you were doing at the time, so you can look back on how different activities may have influenced your emotions.
Lessen Anxiety by Drinking Less Coffee and Getting More Sleep
Stress and anxiety are caused by a wide range of factors, but even small, healthy changes in your daily routine can help to ease those conditions. Try drinking less coffee, as caffeine can actually trigger both anxiety and stress. At the very least, stop drinking caffeine two hours before you go to bed. And while you’re at it, try to get an adequate amount of sleep: healthy adults should sleep for at least eight hours each night. These small changes in your daily habits might make a world of difference when it comes to managing mood swings.
Make Time to Decompress
Worrying about controlling your mood swings on top of living your busy life is a recipe for trouble. Set aside time each day for an activity you enjoy that doesn’t require too much thought. Attend a yoga class, read a good book, paint, or do any number of calming activities that will relax you and take your mind off of a challenge you can’t necessarily control.
Manage Mood Disorders with Help from Family Psychiatry and Therapy
Whether your mood swings are a result of life stressors or a mood disorder, Family Psychiatry and Therapy can help provide you with the tools and techniques to gain control of your symptoms. And you don’t need to already be diagnosed with a disorder to seek a psychiatric consultation–even perfectly happy people can benefit from therapy! Our experienced professionals will evaluate your needs and put together a customized treatment plan to help you take control of your life and learn to manage the underlying conditions that could be causing your mood swings. Contact us today to learn more about our services, or to schedule an appointment.