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- What are Mood Swings?
- Diagnosing Mood Swings
- What Causes Mood Swings?
- Help for Mood Swings
- More Information on Mood Swings
What are Mood Swings?
Mood swings are characterized by a drastic change in emotion from one side of the spectrum to the other. If one moment someone is contentedly going about their daily tasks, and the next moment is suddenly upset, irritated or downright hostile, they may suffer from mood swings.
It is completely normal to experience the wide range of negative emotions like anger, irritability, tearfulness and sadness that affect us all from time to time. But when out of control mood swings start to affect our ability to function properly in jobs or personal relationships, they become an issue worth addressing.
Who Suffers from Mood Swings?
Studies have shown that women experience mood swings twice as often as men. This is not surprising as many mood swings are the result of fluctuating hormone levels that occur in premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy or post-partum stages. There are a number of causes for mood swings (that affect both men and women) and when the underlying cause is addressed, mood swings usually dissipate.
Although mood swings are the main characteristic of bipolar disorder, the two should not be confused. Mood swings are a fairly normal part of life but become troublesome when they become excessive and frequent. The violent mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are much more severe and generally need professional treatment.
Diagnosing Mood Swings
Diagnosing mood swings involves a specialist taking account for your feelings throughout an average day. One way might be to chart your moods over the course of a week. If you experience erratic changes in your emotions or mood swings, it can help to see what set your mood swings off. This can often inform the method of treatment chosen to remedy them.
When Should You Worry about Mood Swings?
While the occasional mood swing can be expected and tolerated in daily life, out of control mood swings can become severe and debilitating. If you find that your mood swings are unpredictable, uncontrollable or consistently disproportionate to the situation, it is advisable to seek a professional assessment or start examining possible underlying causes.
Sometimes the solution is as simple as a change in diet, exercise or sleep patterns, but in others it may suggest a more serious problem. Even if moodiness is due to normal expected hormonal changes such as in menopause, there is no need to suffer through them, as there are treatment options available to help you regain your emotional stability and serenity.
What Causes Mood Swings?
Violent mood swings can be caused by a number of different conditions and complaints. Sometimes fluctuating moods are simply our reaction to daily aggravators and certain situations, but most of the time mood swings suggest that something is out of balance or physically wrong.
Causes and Common Triggers of Mood Swings
- A chaotic or unbalanced life-style with too much stress.
- Lack of sleep or too much sleep (the average individual needs approximately 7-8 hours of sleep each night.) This may be due to poor sleeping habits or a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
- Unhealthy diets lacking in the necessary vitamins and nutrients. Eating too much sugar and wheat or not eating enough fresh fruit, fiber and vegetables may lead to feelings of moodiness. Our moods tend to fluctuate along with our blood sugar levels and so eating fast energy releasing foods generally leads to emotional highs and lows and feelings of fatigue.
- Stopping smoking (nicotine withdrawal).
- Anemia either due to poor iron absorption or a lack of iron in the diet.
- Chemical imbalance in the brain including conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
- Hormonal changes such as during and after pregnancy, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), post-partum depression and menopause are commonly associated with mood swings. Teenagers can also suffer mood swings due to the hormonal changes related to puberty.
- Alcohol abuse (as well as mild alcohol consumption) and drug abuse.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Side effects of certain medications.
Help for Mood Swings
Treatment for mood swings will depend on the severity and the underlying cause of the mood swings. The first step of action should be to make a note of when the mood swings occur and after what activities.
If you keep a strict mood diary you will probably begin to notice a pattern such as violent mood swings after eating too much sugar, the day after a night out drinking or just before your menstrual cycle.
This will give you some clue as to what life-style changes are necessary and may also help your doctor make a more accurate diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Mood Swings
Assess your lifestyle and attempt to restore balance into all areas of your life. Ensure that you get enough exercise, sleep and a balanced diet. Address unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking and high sugar intake, and find productive ways of dealing with stress, anger and anxiety.
If the underlying cause of your mood swings is a medical one, your doctor may prescribe certain medication to help balance your mood. The most commonly prescribed treatment for mood swings are antidepressants such as Prozac, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women.
While psychiatric drug treatment may combat mood swings, most have unwanted side effects and risks such as insomnia, weight gain, decreased sex drive, headaches, and risk of suicide.
These all need to be thoroughly explored and considered before advancing on this option. There are also reports of withdrawal symptoms and worsened mood swings after discontinuing these drugs.
Recent controversies and worrying risks of cancer related to hormone replacement therapy also suggest that this should not be the first treatment option considered.
There are many forms of psychotherapy that can help if out of control mood swings begin to interfere with daily functioning. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful in teaching people that they can control their reactions to situations and can help to provide alternative responses to common mood triggers.
It also helps by changing your way of thinking so that you approach situations with a positive and controlled outlook. As mood swings often leave you feeling that your emotions are out of control, sometimes the best approach is to learn to control the thoughts that lead to these emotions.
More Information on Mood Swings
Tips for Coping with Mood Swings
- Try to work out any emotional tension that you may be holding on to. So often we are totally unaware that something is actually worrying us until we sit down and confront the real reason that we keep blowing up over the little things. Try talking out some of these emotions with a trusted friend or licensed counselor.
- When you feel a mood swing coming on, take a moment to pause. Try breathing deeply and focus on something in the present such as the sound of your breathing or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By focusing your attention on something sensory and in the moment you take your mind away from negative thoughts and feelings and you can more easily let this negativity go.
- If you feel overpowered during a mood swing and tend to lose all rationality, sit down after the "storm has passed" and really think about what happened. Examine the event that changed your mood in relation to your reaction and come up with alternate and more positive ways of reacting to the same situation. Explore the thoughts that went through your mind and come up with more rational thoughts. The point of this exercise is not to spend hours beating yourself up over what you did and what you should have done – the point is to slowly change your habitual thoughts and reactions that lead to negative outcomes and come up with healthy alternatives!
- Adapt your life-style to incorporate plenty of sleep, a healthy balanced diet, exercise and relaxation time. Find ways of managing your stress levels and find healthier ways to vent your frustrations – such as writing, jogging or joining a kick-boxing class.
- Eat regular meals and try to eat slow energy releasing foods such as whole grain breads, beans & legumes, brown rice, and oats. Avoid fast-release carbohydrates or highly refined foods, excessive sugar, caffeine and alcohol.