Mood swing

What Is a Mood Swing?

A mood swing is defined as a rapid or extreme change in mood. A mood swing can apply to both minor mood changes that occur daily or severe mood changes common with mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder. Mood swings can affect both males and females, and can happen at any age.

What Causes Mood Swings?

There are several different factors that can lead to mood swings. The most common reasons people will experience mood swings include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by several different symptoms. While sometimes a person may be sad, they can also become extremely irritated or agitated. Mood swings are common amongst individuals who suffer from depression.
  • Stress: Everyone experiences stress in their lives, and all people handle it differently. In times of stress or when dealing with an overload of responsibility, a person can experience mood swings.
  • Anxiety: Both anxiety and the effects of anxiety can cause mood swings in some people. Anxiety can also increase the intensity of the mood swings a person experiences.
  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is characterised by times of moderate to severe depression coupled with times of the exact opposite. A person with bipolar disorder can be sad one day and manic the next, full of energy and zest for life. Mood swings are one of the most common symptoms in people who suffer from bipolar disorder.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse are known to cause extreme highs followed by periods of severe lows. Substance abuse changes brain chemistry, and in time can make it difficult to feel pleasure without using drugs or alcohol.
  • Lack of sleep: When a person does not get adequate sleep, they can become irritable and experience rapid changes in mood. For those who do not receive enough sleep on a regular basis (such as people who suffer from insomnia), mood swings can become more prevalent.
  • Hormonal Changes: Women who experience hormonal changes often experience mood swings. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), perimenopause, and menopause can all cause rapid changes in mood.
  • Brain Chemistry: When a person has abnormal levels of one or more neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, for example), it can result in mood swings or a mood disorder.
  • Certain Diseases: Progressive diseases that affect the central nervous system can result in mood swings. This can include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Diet: Processed foods, sugar, and excessive caffeine can all contribute to changes in mood.


Treatment for mood swings is dependent upon what changes in a person’s mood are caused by. For mood swings caused by a medical condition such as thyroid problems, low blood sugar levels, and lung or cardiovascular disease, medical treatment will be recommended by a physician.

Psychotherapy is commonly used to treat mood swings, especially when caused by depression, anxiety, stress, or bipolar disorder. Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to help individuals change the thoughts that lead to rapid changes in mood. Talking with a therapist or counsellor can also help a person identify what is causing their mood swings and help them take the steps to overcome these issues.

Medication is also used as a treatment for mood swings. It can either be used alone or in conjunction with psychotherapy. Mood stabilisers and antidepressants are common prescriptions for those who experience mood swings.

Mood Swings FAQ

What are some common conditions that cause mood swings?

Common conditions that cause mood swings include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, stress, dementia, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), perimenopause, menopause, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), schizophrenia, epilepsy, and thyroid problems.

Are mood swings the same as bipolar?

While bipolar disorder can cause extreme mood swings, when a person experiences rapid changes in mood, it does not necessarily mean they are bipolar. There are several different causes for mood swings aside from bipolar disorder.

Does stress cause mood swings?

Stress is one of the biggest reasons people experience mood swings. Controlling stress in fundamental in managing mood swings, especially for people who suffer from disorders such as bipolar and PTSD.

External Links

Symptoms of Mood Swings, MedicineNet

Bipolar Disorder and Mood Swings, Everyday Health

Mood Swings: Symptoms of Anxiety, Calm Clinic

Symptoms of Anxiety, Anxiety Centre

Rapid Mood Swings, Healthline

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