All about Mood Swings


A mood swing is a rapid, significant change in mood. It’s often described as an emotional rollercoaster, characterised by highs and lows.

We’ve all had a mood swing at one point or another. One minute you’re all dressed up, excited about attending a concert with a friend. But then they call to cancel due to some unforeseen circumstance, and you feel irritated that you spent so long planning the evening.

Your irritability quickly turns to disappointment as you realise what you’ll be missing out on. Maybe you start to feel sad or even lonely. Then your mood shifts to outright anger at the situation, before returning to sadness.

What Triggers a Mood Swing?

Mood swings can be triggered by a variety of everyday situations and are often influenced by personal experiences, external factors, or internal emotions. Other everyday situations that can trigger mood swings include traffic jams, work stresses, family dynamics, money worries, and health issues.

Along with emotional changes, mood swings may be accompanied by the physical sensations that are associated with the emotions people are cycling through. So, you may feel butterflies in your stomach if you’re anxious, tense muscles if you’re angry, or a hollow feeling if you’re sad. Other features of a mood swing include feeling vulnerable, unpredictable, sensitive, and fatigued.

What Else Contributes to Mood Swings?

While mood swings affect everyone at some point, certain things can make people more prone to them. These include:

– being stressed or overwhelmed
poor dietary choices
– lack of sleep
– taking certain medications
– experiencing significant life changes, such as a divorce or redundancy
– alcohol or drug use or abuse
– having a mental health issue, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD

Conditions Associated With Mood Swings


Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, affects more than half of people. Although depression causes persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, it can also contribute to other emotional states, including irritability and anger.

And, of course, people with depression experience happiness and good moods too.

Other forms of depression, including persistent depressive disorder, can cause similar mood swings. Learn more about depression here.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder – a condition that affects 1 in 50 adults  –  is characterised by extreme mood swings, comprising emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). These can occur rarely or many times per year.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Those with ADHD can struggle to manage their emotions, which causes mood swings. They may also have periods of overthinking, impulsiveness, issues with attention and focus, and hyperactivity.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health condition that arises from experiencing a traumatic event, such as a car crash or sexual violence. Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, but an estimated 3.6% of people globally had PTSD in the past year.

Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, intense anxiety, and mood swings.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

BPD affects the way people view themselves and others. Those with the condition have an intense fear of abandonment. As a result, they can have difficulty regulating emotions and behaviours, have relationship issues, and struggle to function in everyday life.

Physical Health Conditions

Many, many physical health conditions – particularly if they are terminal or long-term – can trigger mood swings. The effects can be direct, such as through changes in brain function or hormone levels; or indirect, such as by triggering a mental health condition, substance use, or changes in sleep patterns.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

PMS causes lots of different symptoms before a girl or woman has her period. Along with bloating, cravings, and fatigue, she may experience mood swings.

PMDD is a more severe form of PMS that affects approximately 5% of women of childbearing age. Mood swings with PMDD are more severe and may include persistent irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression.

Pregnancy or Menopause

Hormonal changes in pregnancy or menopause can cause sudden mood swings. In pregnancy, these mood swings may be worse during the first trimester and then level off as the pregnancy progresses.

For women going through menopause, mood changes are common – affecting up to 23% of peri- and postmenopausal women.

How Can I Deal with My Mood Swings?

Coping mechanisms, self-awareness, and support from others can help navigate and manage these emotional twists and turns.

Lifestyle changes

If you’re having lots of mood swings, the first thing you should do is examine your lifestyle. Ask yourself:

– Am I getting enough sleep (7-9 hours)?
– Do I eat a healthy balanced diet, with regular mealtimes?Woman Meditating Outdoors
– Do I exercise regularly?
– How are my stress levels?
– Do I need to add mindfulness or other stress-management techniques to my day?
– Am I spending enough time doing things I enjoy?
– Do I connect regularly with family and friends?

It may be helpful to keep a journal to track your moods and get to know the things that trigger mood swings.

If your mood swings are persistent, severe, or impact your relationships, job, or quality of life, you may need to take further steps. These may include:


Therapy may help you:

– figure out what’s contributing to your mood swings
– better manage your emotions
– work on underlying issues, including childhood issues and unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour
– learn coping skills
– manage mental or physical conditions
– improve your communication skills to benefit your relationships


Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat underlying mental health conditions, such as PTSD or depression, which can contribute to mood swings. Medication may also help with symptoms of physical conditions.

The Bottom Line on Mood Swings

While the occasional mood swing is a normal part of the human experience, having intense, persistent, or regular mood swings may indicate there is something more going on for you.

Lifestyle changes can really help reduce the number and intensity of mood swings, as can treating any underlying mental health conditions. Therapy can also be helpful for many people who experience mood swings. Having a safe space to explore the underlying issues and finding healthier coping mechanisms can help you improve emotional regulation.

Worried about your mood swings and want to give therapy a go? Contact me for queries or bookings.