What Are the Different Causes of Mood Swings?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2018
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Common causes of mood swings can include fatigue, imbalances in hormone levels, and stress. These influences, in addition to others, affect the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. When the neurotransmitters are disrupted, they can send mixed signals, and may create depression, aggression, or a giddy mood, depending on the chemicals involved. There are a number of tools people can use to address changes in mental state. Research on the causes of mood swings provides important information for care providers and patients looking for management techniques.

Notoriously, pregnancy is often accompanied by mood swings, which are sometimes attributed to hormones. While hormone levels in pregnancy can be one of the causes of mood swings, pregnant women are also under stress, often do not get enough sleep, and may also be making dietary changes. All of these things can potentially create mood imbalances. Similar changes can also be seen in puberty, when hormones change rapidly and people may enter a more stressful period as their workload increases at school and they assume more responsibilities.


Some mental illnesses are associated with mood swings, particularly bipolar disorder, formerly known as “manic depression.” As the old name implies, this condition can be accompanied by radical mood swings between extreme depression and manic periods. A variety of other mental health conditions can also contribute to problems with the neurotransmitters. So can hyperactivity as seen in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults and children. Some people may develop triggers that cause mood swings, such as eating large amounts of particular foods or engaging in particular activities.

Awareness of the causes of mood swings can help people manage them better. Getting adequate sleep is important, as is eating a balanced diet. The ability to take rest periods during the day can be important for people in stressful working or living conditions. Some patients find activities like yoga or meditation helpful with mood swings because they can clear the mind and help manage stress. Running and other exercise can also be beneficial.

Medications are available to address neurotransmitter imbalances in a patient who has trouble managing mood swings. These drugs adjust levels of neurotransmitters in the brain to keep them more stable. Patients who address common causes of mood swings and still experience depression, aggression, and other troubling moods can consider medication as a temporary or permanent measure. For people with mental illness, it may be necessary to remain on mood stabilizing medications for life, with some adjustments over time.



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