Mood Swings: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

By Robynn Lowe
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 23, 2022

While it is normal for emotions to occasionally get out of hand, if it happens too often or you find yourself losing control of your emotions in extreme ways, then your mood swing might be due to an underlying issue. 

This guide will look at some common causes of mood swings and the various treatment options available for them.

We’ll also discuss when to seek medical attention for mood swings and how K Health can help you navigate them. 

Common Causes of Mood Swings

Many factors come into play to cause mood swings.

While mood changes are a natural part of life, it can get tiring and bothersome to handle extreme moods and emotions at certain points.

Extreme mood swings can also affect those around you and those you interact with on a daily basis. 

Physical illness and injury

Being sick or in pain can be quite stressful.

Certain ailments have side effects that cause a shift in the person’s mood.

In a similar vein, getting injured or getting into an accident can also impact a person’s emotions. 

Mood swings and emotional turmoil are common in those suffering from chronic, long-term, or terminal illnesses such as:

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Developmental stages

As children grow, the body and mind go through many changes and emotions through the crucial developmental years of childhood and teenage.

Puberty is an emotional time with physical and psychological changes that can affect a child’s mood.

They may react to situations through unexplained emotional bursts and may not be able to fully control their moods during this developmental phase of life. 

It is common and natural for young people to use emotion to express rebellion and to assert their opinion in unconventional ways.

If you cannot distinguish between healthy teenage emotions and a severe underlying issue, consult a medical professional for help and guidance. 

Allergies

Anticipating your annual allergies and the stress that it causes you can have an adverse effect on your mood and cause mood changes.

Studies show that there is a significant correlation between seasonal and other forms of allergies in adults and their psychological state and mood. In many cases, this starts in early childhood itself. 

Many people get happy and look forward to springtime and summer. But, because many allergies result in flu-like symptoms, including a runny nose and watery eyes, during these seasons, it can cause confusion of emotions. People with allergies are left feeling overwhelmed and tired despite their chirpy surroundings. 

Medication side effects

Certain medications can have an effect on your mood.

You might be prescribed mood-stabilizing medication to treat specific mental health conditions; however, the side effects of other drugs can also impact your emotional and mental health.

This includes blood pressure medication, certain cancer drugs, and birth control pills

Avoid changing your prescribed medication dosage and brand without consulting your healthcare provider. 

Hormones

Hormonal fluctuations can cause mood changes and turbulent emotions.

While this is common in changing and growing bodies, like during adolescence and teenage years, many adults can suffer from hormonal mood swings as well. 

Adults who menstruate, get pregnant, and experience menopause are more likely to get mood swings as their hormone levels change throughout their menstrual cycles.

Estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate through these cycles, interfering with the production of serotonin in the body. This can lead to mood swings and other conditions, including sleep disturbances, hot and chill flashes, erectile dysfunction, and changes in energy levels.

Mental Illness

Several mental illnesses can alter the mood of someone.

Some mental ailments are more severe than others; however, with the right guidance and help, most are treatable and quite manageable today. 

Depression

People with depression will experience extreme sadness as well as anger, loneliness, and worthlessness. Other symptoms include lack of energy, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation, call 988 immediately, go to your local ER, call 911,  or reach out to the healthcare providers at K Health, available 24/7 from wherever you are. 

Bipolar disorder

Characterized by dramatic and extreme shifts in mood, bipolar disorder affects more than 4% of the adult population in the United States.

These fluctuations are a lot more severe and last much longer than usual mood swings. Fortunately, bipolar disorder is treatable using medication.

Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia experience an altered state of reality, and hallucinations and delusions can accompany their mood swings.

Other symptoms include the inability to process emotions, loss of appetite and personal hygiene habits, and changes in sleeping patterns. 

Other mental illnesses and health conditions that could lead to mood swings include Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Borderline personality disorder (BPD), cyclothymic disorder, and Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). 

Lifestyle

Your daily routine, diet, exercise regimen, and sleep habits all work together to determine your mood and any changes to it.

Some people find that their mood is troubled if they do not get a good night’s rest or when they skip a cup of coffee in the morning.

Others need to exercise daily to keep their anxiety levels and mood under control. Certain substances such as tobacco, drugs, and alcohol can directly affect your mood as well. 

Treatment for Mood Swings

Psychotherapy

A certified psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health provider or healthcare professional will be able to use appropriate psychological methods of treatment to help with mood swings.

Talking therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people vocalize their stresses and triggers and help manage their moods and emotions. 

Medication

Prescription medications can be used to treat certain mental health conditions and their symptoms, like mood swings.

These include anticonvulsant drugs, antidepressants, antianxiety medications, antipsychotics, sleeping pills, and other mood stabilizers. 

Medication to treat mood swings and mental illnesses should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Take only the prescribed dosage, and do not stop or change the brand of medication without consulting a medical provider.

Lifestyle changes

Alongside medical treatment, there are plenty of lifestyle changes that you can undertake to manage your stress levels and mood swings. 

Many people find it effective to:

  • Get the right amount of sleep and rest: Sleep deprivation can change your mood, so it is important to get enough sleep and stick to a routine. Eliminate the use of screens just before bedtime and invest in comfortable pillows, essential oils, and relaxation techniques to help you wind down at night.
  • Keep the body active during the day: Regular physical activity releases the right hormones in your body and helps regulate your moods. You will also find that regular exercise will help you sleep better at night and keep your mind occupied during times of stress. A short walk, breathing, stretching exercises, and team sports can help elevate your mood.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet not only keeps your body healthy but aids in keeping your mind and mood in good health. Keep processed foods and junk food to a minimum and drink plenty of water throughout the day. 
  • Maintain a social life: It is important to keep yourself active and motivated in any way that keeps your mood happy and stable. Some people prefer to spend their time reading, traveling, or journaling by themselves to process their emotions. Others find it more helpful to socialize with others and spend time with family and friends. A creative outlet that allows you to express your emotions and moods healthily usually helps keep mood swings at bay.
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When To Seek Medical Attention

If mood swings are causing a hindrance to your daily professional and personal life, then seek help from a medical practitioner. Surround yourself with loved ones and try not to nurse thoughts of suicide or self harm.

If such thoughts come up, call 988, go to your nearest ER, or visit a healthcare professional immediately. 

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? If you are struggling with your mental health or you’re experiencing mood swings that you cannot control, reach out to our team of clinicians at any time.

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can a person experience mood swings?
Mood swings occur when your temperament and emotions fluctuate rapidly and extremely. People with personality disorders may experience a heightened sense of emotions and quick change between extreme anger, happiness, depression, or aggression. Even those who do not have a personality disorder can experience mood swings throughout their lives.
What causes mood swings?
Many different factors can contribute to changes in a person’s mood. From big life events to relationships, hormones to injuries, and even certain illnesses - many circumstances come into play and work together to cause and effect a mood swing.
What are the signs and symptoms of mood swings?
Some signs of symptoms of moods swings include: Sudden bursts of emotions, including anger, happiness, and depression Constant tiredness and fatigue after an extreme emotional display Loss of interest in regular activities or heightened emotions regarding them Loss of appetite or change in emotion regarding food
How can I control my mood swings?
Some ways to control a mood swing or to bring a change of emotion under control include sticking to a regular sleep schedule and keeping a daily routine of activities, including exercise and diet. Practice meditation and other relaxation techniques to learn how to control extreme emotions. You may also find talking about your emotions therapeutic. If mood swings are severe, certain medications and professional medical guidance can help.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Robynn Lowe

Robynn Lowe is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years in the medical field. Robynn received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Florida Atlantic University and has been practicing in rural family medicine since. Robynn is married to her college sweetheart, Raymond and they have three awesome children. When Robynn isn't with patients you can find her shopping, coaching her kids sports teams, or spending time on the water.

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