Mental HealthWhy Am I Having Mood Swings? Most Common Causes

Everyone has a range of moods that are regularly subject to change. Mood in general refers to how you feel at any given moment, depending on your emotions, feelings, thoughts, and external factors that affect your mood.

Moods normally go through shifts, which may be caused by circumstantial factors such as lack of sleep or nutrition, or stress from changing jobs, moving, or ending a relationship. Temporary mood swings are common and will regulate after a period of time and adjustment.

Drastic changes and turbulent mood swings may be indications of something more serious, sometimes by underlying health conditions. Mental health disorders and substance abuse issues can be the source of mood disturbances and need to be identified and diagnosed in order to be treated effectively and appropriately.

If you are experiencing sudden shifts in your emotional state that are affecting your quality of life, you may need to consult a physician or mental health specialist to investigate potential causes and conditions.

Substance-Induced Mood Swings

Chemical dependence, such as chronic heroin drug use and abuse of other mind-altering drugs, can have an intense effect on moods and cause them to become increasingly volatile.

Polarized moods and erratic behaviors are a result of sudden and sharp fluctuations in hormones and neurochemicals, such as norepinephrine, dopamine, cortisol, and adrenaline. Certain drugs cause these chemicals to spike and drop, resulting in mood imbalances and emotional irregularity.

In attempts to correct these imbalances and stabilize moods, people may self-medicate with more substances even more frequently, which has an exacerbatory effect on fluctuating emotional states.

Substance-induced mood disorder is a clinical condition caused by withdrawal from addictive substances and often requires psychiatric assessment and treatment. Mood swings rapidly alternate from manic highs to depressive lows, which are triggered by the presence and subsequent absence of a medication or drug that the body has developed a high tolerance to.

Symptoms of manic moods include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Excitability
  • Impulsivity
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Grandiosity

Mania is immediately followed by depressive mood symptoms such as:

  • Melancholy
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Apathy
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased libido
  • Anorexia
  • Lack of energy

In many cases, substance-induced mood disorders are accompanied by co-occurring mental health disorders, which need to be treated simultaneously to address the core issues. Medications may also be prescribed to manage mood imbalances during the recovery process.

Hormonal Mood Swings

Mood swings and disorders are more prevalent in women, who tend to experience adverse symptoms of hormonal changes that affect their emotional and mental health. Female hormones tend to fluctuate more frequently and widely throughout their lives.

While mild mood swings during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are common and not necessarily unhealthy, mood disorders can cause critical harm to mental well-being.

Menstrually related mood disorders are the following: 

  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Perimenopausal depression

Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms to some degree throughout their menstrual life cycles. Mild symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medications for pain and discomfort, but some women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is a more severe form of PMS. This can cause intense mood swings and exacerbate pre-existing mental health disorders.

Symptoms of PMS commonly include: 

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Food cravings
  • Poor sleep
  • Breast tenderness
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Body aches

Hormonal imbalances caused by endocrine disorders can affect men as well as women. The endocrine system controls the production of hormones that regulate essential bodily functions in males and females. Disorders such as hypothyroidism or adrenal dysfunction can cause mood swings and other mental health symptoms.

The endocrine system is connected to the central nervous system, so any irregularity or dysfunction in one affects the other interchangeably. If you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive one (hypothyroidism), you may experience turbulent emotional states and unpredictable mood swings.

Mental stress can exacerbate the symptoms of an endocrine disorder, or cause one to manifest, so stress reduction and management strategies are essential for maintaining mental health and breaking the cycle of mood swings caused by hormonal imbalances.

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