Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
One minute, you’re laughing at a TikTok of a cat in a bowtie, and the next, you’re crying uncontrollably about how you’ll never find love. That’s a mood swing for you.
Mood swings are exactly what they sound like: sudden swings in your mood. You might go from happy to sad or calm to angry in a flash, and you can never really tell when the swing will happen.
Keep reading to find out what causes them and — more importantly — how to stop mood swings.
Mood swings are sudden changes in your mood. This is also known as mood instability.
If you suffer from mood swings, you’re far from alone. It’s a common problem, and it affects more women than men.
This is when the rollercoaster that is your emotional state can affect your quality of life.
There are many causes of mood swings. And no, an annoying kid or a teary movie aren’t the triggers.
Here’s what could really be to blame.
Find yourself crying at sad yogurt adverts, even when they’re not particularly sad? It could be that time of the month.
Hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle can cause mood shifts. Just before your period, you may experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) — and mood swings are a huge part of this.
A 2022 survey found that PMS symptoms include:
That list alone is enough to dampen your good mood.
It’s still not clear what causes PMS, exactly, but it’s thought sex hormones — like estrogen and progesterone — may have something to do with it.
Beyond your menstrual cycle, another cause of mood swings in women is menopause, when certain hormone levels fall.
Mood swings can be a sign of a mental health disorder.
Between 40 and 60 percent of people with mood instability suffer from at least one of these mental health conditions:
You may also experience intense mood swings and trouble regulating your emotions if you have borderline personality disorder.
Speak to a mental health professional if you think a mental health condition is causing your low mood or mood changes.
You’ve probably felt short-tempered when you didn’t get your eight hours of shut-eye. But lack of sleep can be a legitimate cause of mood fluctuations.
Sleep loss could be voluntary (hello, late-night Netflix binges). Or it could be due to a health condition or sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
The catch-22 here is that a person’s mood can stop them from getting enough sleep. Sleep and anxiety aren’t the best of friends.
A health condition could be behind your rapid mood changes.
On the flip side, people with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may also experience psychiatric symptoms and disorders.
Additionally, there might be a link between diabetes and mood swings. But more research is needed, as the evidence is inconclusive.
Now you know what causes mood swings — it’s time to stop them from swinging so much.
Here’s how to deal with mood swings and feel more stable throughout the day.
But you don’t need to be a gym rat to get the benefits. Try adding a 30-minute walk into your daily routine — it might be enough to elevate your mood.
For a real mood boost, look for workouts you enjoy, whether that’s rock climbing, yoga or swimming. Bonus points if you pair a workout with getting out in nature or catching up with friends.
When a mood swing hits, it’s usually not a salad you crave. But what you eat can affect more than just your physical health.
A 2020 review stated that healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet are linked to better mental health.
Another review, this time from 2023, found that a poor diet contributes to depression. It stated that certain nutrients in particular can help, including:
Omega-3 fatty acids
You can learn more about foods that fight depression in our blog.
If you suffer from obesity, losing weight might help both your physical and mental health. A 2021 review found that calorie-restricted diets may improve depression.
It’s not just depression, though. Eating well may help you manage other mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and ADHD.
Another study found that diet changes — like avoiding junk food and eating fish, magnesium and anti-inflammatory foods — were linked to a reduced risk of mental illness. Noshing on nutritious foods can also reduce your symptoms of any current mental illnesses.
And while we’re on the topic of diet, we can’t forget about the one thing many of us rely on to boost our moods each morning: coffee.
Though skipping your morning coffee can certainly make you cranky, caffeine may contribute to stress and anxiety. So keep your java habit in check.
As mentioned above, lack of sleep could be causing your mood swings. And even if it isn’t, poor sleep isn’t going to do your mood any favors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get seven or more hours of sleep a night. But getting enough sleep is often easier said than done.
Follow these tips to get more shut-eye:
Keep a consistent sleep pattern
Ban tech from the bedroom (yes, even your phone)
Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
Get some exercise during the day to fall asleep more easily
The cruel thing about mental health and sleep is when your mental health is suffering, it can be harder to sleep. Anyone who’s laid awake in bed with anxious thoughts knows this all too well.
We’ve shared tips for sleeping with anxiety in our blog.
During menopause, natural estrogen levels decline, which can cause changes in your mood. Hormone replacement therapy can top up these falling estrogen levels.
More research needs to be done to know whether estrogen therapy can help control menopause mood swings, though.
One review highlighted studies that found hormone replacement therapy didn’t improve mood, as well as studies that found it does. Some hormone treatments seemed to improve depression and anxiety during menopause, and some appeared to make them worse. So it’s a real mixed bag.
A healthcare provider can talk to you about whether hormone replacement therapy could help you manage mood swings.
Psychotherapy aims to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviors — and it’s another mood swing treatment to consider. There are many types of therapy, though.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, is seen as the gold standard in psychotherapy. The first-line treatment for many disorders, it’s been found to be effective for the likes of depression, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.
You can also do online therapy from the comfort of your couch.
Medications can help reduce mood swings symptoms and other symptoms of mental health issues.
As the name suggests, antidepressants are used as depression medications. But they’re also FDA-approved to treat a range of conditions that could be behind your mood swings, including OCD, PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.
Medications are often used in combination with other treatments like therapy, and it may take a few tries to find the best meds for you.
There are many types of antidepressants, and they all work slightly differently. On the whole, they target neurotransmitters in your brain — like serotonin — to improve your mood.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Connect with one of our online psychiatry professionals to discuss medications that could help you.
We’ve probably all experienced snapping at a loved one after a night of no sleep or bursting into tears when our boss adds yet another deadline to our plate.
But mood swings can go beyond the occasional wobble, and they can easily get in the way of daily life.
Here’s the TL;DR:
Mood swings have many causes. Sleep deprivation, hormones and mental health conditions can all be to blame.
You can learn how to control mood swings. Treatments range from exercise and diet changes to psychotherapy and antidepressants.
Speak to a professional. They can help you work out the root cause of your mood swings and the best way to get them under control.
No matter the cause, our mental health services can help. We offer therapy and medication so you can get started on the journey to a more stable — and good — mood.
Start your mental wellness journey today.