Unexpected Reasons For Your Rapid Mood Swings

Everyone gets into a moderately bad mood once in a while that lasts a short time, but if you're finding you have rapid mood swings consistently, there may be an underlying cause you need to address.

Mood swings are sudden changes in your emotional state where, one instant, you're in a happy frame of mind and then quickly find yourself in a bad emotional state, according to the experts at Medical News Today.

There are many reasons people can experience mood swings. For instance, a mood swing could be due to a mental health issue related to a mood disorder, which is not uncommon. Some 9.7% of American adults experienced at least one instance of a mood disorder in the past year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Other reasons people experience rapid mood swings can be related to lifestyle factors, a health condition, or hormones, among others. The good news is that you or a health specialist can often determine the reason for mood swings, which you can often take steps to address on your own. In some circumstances, a doctor may decide a certain kind of treatment will be more effective in reducing mood swings.

Here are some reasons that may be causing your sudden, unexpected mood swings and ways you can take action to manage or improve the situation.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Hormonal imbalances

If you experience sudden mood swings during pregnancy, menopause, or your menstrual cycle, chances are this is due to hormonal fluctuations.

Hormones can sometimes be the root cause of fatigue, weight gain, or a low mood (via Hormone Health). Considering how hormones regulate a whole host of your body's functions, such as metabolism, body temperature, reproductive cycles, and mood, it's no wonder that a hormone imbalance has so much influence. For instance, fluctuations in the female hormone estrogen can impact the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin. Depending on where you are in your life cycle, this disruption to serotonin could lead to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or depression during the phase leading up to menopause, also known as perimenopause. The American Pregnancy Association reports that estrogen and progesterone (which plays a key role in supporting menstruation and during pregnancy by preparing the body for birth) are known to potentially impact mood during the first and third trimesters. Alterations in hormone levels during these stages of pregnancy can impact mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

Though these mood swings may feel out of your control, you have many options that may help reduce their intensity. Try to incorporate opportunities for adequate rest by sleeping more at night and taking a nap during the day. To destress, try meditation or a yoga class. If you're pregnant, consult your doctor first to confirm if it's safe for you to practice yoga. If you get the green light, find a certified prenatal yoga instructor at your local yoga studio or gym.

Anxiety or depression

High levels of stress and anxiety or mood disorders such as depression can disrupt emotional balance, triggering swift and intense shifts in mood.

Because mood swings are associated with depression and generalized anxiety disorders such as phobias or panic disorders, if you experience depression or anxiety, you are likely to be vulnerable to fluctuating moods (via Cleveland Clinic). Depending on your type of mood disorder, you may experience different expressions of mood changes. For instance, if you are depressed, mood symptoms can include feelings of sadness or worthlessness, less interest in activities that you used to enjoy, and suicidal ideation. For those experiencing manic episodes, you may feel suddenly elated or overly energized, or you may become irritable and restless or feel motivated to engage in high-risk practices. The cause of a mood disorder can be due to biological, genetic, or environmental factors or a combination of these.

Anxiety Centre reports that mood swings associated with anxiety or stress can be the result of fluctuating stress hormones and the impact this has on the body. Another way anxiety or stress can cause mood swings is if you are experiencing a lot of stress. Your dramatic response to stressors can put more pressure on your body's energy resources, leaving you feeling fatigued and depleted, leading to a low mood. Overly apprehensive behavior is often the root cause of mood swings that result from anxiety. Working with an anxiety disorder specialist or coach may help to diminish apprehensive behaviors and lead to fewer episodes of mood swings.

Bipolar disorder

If you have bipolar disorder, a lifelong mental health condition characterized by dramatic mood swings between depression and mania, you're not alone. In the past year, some 2.8% of Americans experienced this condition, per SingleCare.

Those with bipolar disorder experience persistent moods that then change rapidly, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Symptoms of bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) vary depending on the individual, but mood episodes are the prominent feature and can be manic, depressive, or a mix of both. Episodes can last for a full day and involve intense feelings and changes in behavior and energy levels that are expansive enough to stand out. Symptoms of a manic episode can include racing thoughts and fast speech, feelings of being immensely powerful or unusually talented, and feeling extremely irritable. Those experiencing a depressive episode will show signs of sadness, an inability to execute simple tasks, and trouble concentrating.

Per Mayo Clinic, there are two types of episodes that someone with bipolar disorder can experience: mania and hypomania, with mania being the more severe and, therefore, noticeable of the two types, though both express the same symptoms. If you believe you may have bipolar disorder, see your doctor who may conduct a physical exam and refer you to a psychiatrist for more assessment. You may also be asked to keep a daily record of your moods and sleep patterns to help confirm a diagnosis. Bipolar disorder is not preventable, but receiving medical treatment early can help this mental health condition from worsening.

Medication side effects

If you're on any medications, there may be side effects causing your rapid mood changes.

Though some medications may improve your mood, there are certain types that can have negative effects, leaving you feeling sad or depressed, according to Healthify. Some of these medications include steroids such as prednisone, birth control pills, and antidepressants. Seizure medications are also known to sometimes impact mood, as the medicine targets cells in the area of the brain that are connected to seizure activity, where emotions and moods are also based, per Epilepsy Foundation. Even so, these reactions may only occur in some people. Moreover, the impact on an individual's mood will vary widely from person to person and depend on the type of medication.

Although each person will experience medication side effects differently, when medication does have an impact on mood, there are some general mood changes one may encounter. For one, medication may cause a low mood, which can last from a few days to a few weeks before lifting. During a low mood, you may feel sad and uninterested in engaging in your usual activities. A more extended low mood triggered by medication is most likely a sign of depression, which can impact your appetite and sleep quality. Some medications may also cause behavior changes, manifesting in irritability, hostility, or euphoria.

If medications are impacting your mood, avoid alcohol and recreational drugs and contact your doctor to determine if you need to change dosages or try a different medicine.

Substance misuse

Individuals who take recreational drugs or consume alcohol, especially those who struggle with addiction, are more exposed to mood swings, as these substances can impact your brain chemistry and the ability of neurons to transmit messages, leading to unpredictable mood fluctuations.

Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the brain is made up of a complicated network of interconnected circuits and neurons that send messages back and forth by way of neurotransmitters. Drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin disrupt the ability of the neurons to properly transmit, receive, and process signals. These drugs mimic the brain's chemicals, interfering with neurotransmitters and leading to the sending of abnormal messages. Taking drugs subsequently over-amplifies the brain's reward messages and leads to surges of the pleasure hormone and neurotransmitter dopamine, producing a "high." As a result, when someone who misuses drugs has to readjust to normal experiences of pleasure, they can become depressed and unmotivated.

The American Addiction Centers reports that nearly 30 million Americans used drugs excessively in 2014. Marijuana is the drug used most regularly; it can alter the user's mood alteration and interfere with dopamine's normal function, leading to the euphoric experiences users often report. A prominent fallout from unhealthy substance use's impact on mood is the effect this pattern of behavior has on personal relationships, professional work, and academic performance, according to UK Rehab

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Sleep issues

If you've been struggling with sleep, this could be contributing to your mood swings. Inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality can disrupt mood-regulating hormones and your circadian rhythm.

Our circadian rhythm (internal clock) is an essential process for our body, as this 24-hour sleep/wake cycle connected to the brain supports memory formation and hormone secretion, and replenishes and heals the body for optimal functioning (via Harvard Health). Circadian rhythms need to be in sync with one's sleep periods to do their job properly, so when there is a misalignment in your circadian rhythm and your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, this could impact your mood. In some cases, depression may be an underlying cause of circadian rhythm disturbances and sleep disruption.

WebMD reports that numerous studies confirm that lack of sleep over time can lead to negative mood swings that can include feelings of anger, irritability, and sadness.

Though you can't change your circadian rhythm, as it is genetically determined, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep quality, which will lead to a better mood. However, this requires committing to better sleep habits. For one, you need to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night regularly. Additionally, awaken at the same time every day. Waking up at the same time each day will help settle you into a consistent sleep pattern. Also, stay away from bright lights and screens at least an hour before going to bed. Substitute screen-viewing with calming music or meditation.

Unhealthy or unbalanced diet

Eating unhealthy foods consistently or not getting enough of certain types of nutrients can affect the way your brain functions, leading to mood instability.

Aetna reports that studies support the notion that what we eat impacts our physical and mental well-being. This connection is due to the close relationship between your brain and your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Hence, many health experts promote the importance of good gut health. Also referred to as our "second brain," your GI tract hosts billions of bacteria that influence brain chemistry by carrying messages to the brain via chemical substances such as dopamine and serotonin.

Sticking to a nutritious diet, especially one that includes plant-based, fiber-rich foods, will help prevent mood swings and improve your ability to focus. Whole, unprocessed foods may even mitigate some symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some examples of "good for your mood foods" include fruit and colorful vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain couscous. Additionally, staying hydrated and keeping an eye on your caffeine and alcohol consumption will help provide support for maintaining a better mood, per Aetna.

If you prefer a more structured approach to your diet, registered dietitian Sarah Thomsen Ferreira tells Cleveland Clinic that the Mediterranean diet is a great choice, noting that the vegetables, omega-3-rich fish, legumes, and olive oil components of the diet are linked to improvements in mood and anxiety. Ferreira noted that it's vital to be patient and give the diet two to three weeks before you feel positive mood changes.

Environmental factors

The environment in which you operate and any changes to the sounds, sights, and smells that permeate your surroundings can affect how you function, subsequently impacting your mood and stress levels (per Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling).

If the quality of your environment — your home, workplace, neighborhood, and other places you frequent — diminishes enough, such as having to deal with a loud neighbor or roommate, traffic noise, or nearby thumping music, this can increase your stress hormone cortisol and create tension. Moreover, noise can disturb your sleep, leading to a negative impact on your mood. If your area is polluted with smoke, dirty air, or other contaminants that make it difficult to breathe, this physical discomfort can also have an impact on your mood. Additionally, living in a cluttered environment can create anxiety and a sense of overwhelm. Organizing your environment and taking time out in nature away from noise are a couple of ways to reduce stress.

And while moving somewhere else can often be filled with possibilities, the team at Crossroads Health explains that it can also be an overwhelming experience that impacts your mood. Moving is a major life change that can lead to "relocation depression" due to leaving friends and family or starting life in a new place. Reduce your pre-move anxiety by creating a timeline of what you need to accomplish before the move. To manage stress after a move, consider volunteering to meet others in the community.

When to consult a physician

If you've been experiencing sudden ups and downs in your mood for at least two weeks, it might be time to consult a healthcare specialist.

Mood disorder symptoms can be easy to ignore, and it's not always clear that what you have is merely a mood swing or a sign of major or chronic depression or bipolar disorder, per Johns Hopkins Health. If you're feeling more irritable or hostile than usual, are persistently anxious, and have experienced a significant change in your weight or appetite, a psychiatrist can provide medication and therapy that may lead to effective results within a few months.

Even if you are uncertain that your mood swings are a sign of something more serious, Healthline experts advise consulting with a physician if the mood swings negatively impact your daily life. Talking out your situation with a healthcare professional can help you determine what medical steps, if any, are warranted and what you can do to alter your routine that might help.

For instance, the experts at WebMD advise engaging in regular exercise, which can trigger endorphins, the feel-good hormone produced by your brain that can help lift your mood. If you can get in consistent workouts, that's great, but even a daily walk can do the trick to mitigate feelings of depression and anxiety. Listening to your favorite upbeat tunes can also help to lighten your mood. Also, consider reaching out to people in your life who you trust for support.