Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/3/2022
Do you ever feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster? Maybe one minute you’re fine and dandy and the next you’re in a deep, wallowing pit. Or perhaps you go from laughing to rageful in less than five seconds. Sounds like a mood swing! And you’re probably here because you want to know how to stop mood swings.
A mood swing may also be referred to as mood instability. These fluctuations in feelings are pretty common — though, they can also be a sign of several different psychiatric disorders.
Another interesting fact? Women tend to experience mood instability more than men. Simply put, these swings are defined by rapidly oscillating between different moods.
Wondering what can cause these sudden highs and lows and, more importantly, hope to tamper them? Find out below.
As we said, mood swings are totally normal — just about everyone will experience one at some point in life (if not multiple times). Things like stress can certainly influence and provoke mood swings.
However, if mood swings are affecting your daily life, that’s a problem. As for what triggers mood swings? There could be a number of things, really — but these are amongst the most common.
Certain health conditions may contribute to mood swings. For example, people with diabetes may experience them. A study found that greater glycemic variability may be associated with negative moods.
Thyroid disorders are also often associated with mood swings. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism result in unbalanced hormones. These hormone shifts can cause mood swings, a symptom of depression.
One reason mood swings may be more common in women? Estrogen. This hormone, which is present in women’s systems, fluctuates throughout your life. And those fluctuations can affect your mood.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is something many women experience. It’s caused by the fluctuation of hormones around your period and it can cause your mood to be off.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a more severe form of PMS that can also cause mood swings. It affects approximately five percent of women.
Similarly, menopause is another time when a woman’s hormones ping-pong around, making mood swings very common during this time.
Mood swings are also a common symptom of depression. Those dealing with depression may find themselves going from irritable to sad to angry in quick succession (or any other number of mood switches).
People with bipolar disorder also deal with some extreme mood swings. People with this mood disorder experience large shifts in their moods. Another type of bipolar disorder is cyclothymic disorder, which is defined by episodes of hypomania followed by depression.
If you suspect you may be dealing with a mental health issue like depression or bipolar disorder, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional.
Sleep is essential to good health. Without it, you won’t be alert and it can impair your memory. Long-term lack of sleep can also contribute to medical issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and more.
In addition to all of this, lack of sleep can influence your mood and may cause mood swings. Research has found that not getting enough rest may be correlated to having a short temper, irritability and aggression.
Whether it’s lifestyle habits that are causing your mood swings, or something connected to your mental health, there are things you can do to mitigate those emotional fluctuations. Translation: You don’t have to ride that emotional roller coaster and there are ways to stop your mood swings. Here’s how:
Regular exercise is great for your mental health. Even just five minutes of boosting your heart rate can benefit you and it’s been shown that regular sweat sessions can lower anxiety.
Whether you hop on a treadmill, do yoga or hit up your favorite spin class, exercise also reduces stress hormones and produces feel-good endorphins.
You don’t even have to go crazy hard at the gym. Consider incorporating a brisk walk into your daily routine, or a 20 minute virtual pilates class.
A lifestyle habit that goes hand in hand with working out? Eating healthfully. Consider limiting simple carbs. Things like pasta and white rice tend to make our blood sugar levels spike and then plummet — which can lead to high highs, followed by low lows.
Skipping meals or suddenly binging on food can do the same thing.
Another benefit of eating well: It’s been found that a balanced diet may help with anxiety. To score these benefits, your meals should consist of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins (think chicken and fish).
Oh, and while we’re talking about what you ingest — skip massive amounts of java. A surplus of caffeine can worsen some anxiety symptoms, putting you in a cranky mood.
As we mentioned above, lack of sleep can spur mood swings. So, you’ll want to focus on getting plenty of shut-eye each night.
That means aiming for at least seven hours per night. To reach this goal, incorporate these sleep habits into your routine:
Avoid caffeine in the hours before bed
Exercise at some point during the day
Stay on scheduling, falling asleep and waking at close to the same time each day
If your shifts in mood are a result of your period and are somewhat manageable, you may just have to wait them out. During your cycle, if you feel overly emotional, just try to be extra gentle with yourself and incorporate things that help you chill out — like doing some yoga or downloading a guided meditation app.
If menopause is causing really intense mood swings or anxiety, you could talk to a healthcare professional about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This involves taking daily pills to even out hormone levels (specifically estrogen levels) that get out of whack due to menopause. The thought is that this can help stabalize some of the worst menopausal symptoms — like hot flashes and mood swings.
One thing to note: There are some risks associated with HRT, including blood clots, heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. A medical professional will be able to tell you how common these risks are.
If depression is causing your mood swings, you’ll want to speak with a healthcare professional about how to manage it. One option that may be presented to you is medication.
To understand how depression medication works, you have to understand the cause of depression. Experts believe it is caused by low levels of certain neurotransmitters in your brain. Serotonin (which regulates mood, amongst other things) and dopamine (which may help you feel motivated) are both common neurotransmitters associated with depression.
Depression medication, often in the form of antidepressants, raises the levels of certain neurotransmitters to fight depression. Generally, antidepressants need to be taken for four to eight weeks before you may notice a difference in symptoms.
There are a number of different types of antidepressants. The most common that are prescribed include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).
If bipolar disorder is behind your mood swings, you may be prescribed mood stabilizers. They also work by restoring balance to certain chemicals in your brain. The most common mood stabilizers are lithium, anticonvulsants (like lamotrigine) and antipsychotics (like risperidone and quetiapine).
At best, mood swings can be annoying. At worst, they can really affect your daily life and impact your work, relationships and more. Because of this, it’s important to try and get a handle on them.
By identifying what is causing mood swings — which could be anything from poor health habits to mental health conditions like clinical depression — you’ll be able to better figure out what can treat them.
Common treatment options to help stop mood swings include lifestyle tweaks like regular exercise and medication. If you’d like to discuss a treatment plan in depth, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional.
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