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What Causes Mood Swings?

Emotions can be a tricky thing to navigate. This is especially true during mood swings when you can go from feeling strongly and securely one way to swinging the pendulum all the way in the other direction. A strong mood swing can dramatically change everything, to the point where there are even mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, which is widely recognized as being a severe mental health issue.

Going well beyond how you feel in the moment, i.e., emotions, moods are a deeper issue that set an emotional and mental base for your well-being that can affect everything else in life. There's a reason why moods are a topic that we have written extensively about and intend to dive into even further.

Positive moods indicate better emotional health in addition to general well-being, while negative moods have quite the opposite effect and can even go to devastating extremes like depression. So how can a person swing quickly from one mood to another? What causes these problems?

Let's dive in to learn more.

Are Mood Swings Normal?

To some extent, mood swings are relatively healthy, especially if certain extenuating circumstances are present. For a person receiving very sad or unexpected tragic news, a mood swing into sorrow is normal. On the other side, it would be weird if someone who just won the lottery didn't experience an absolute burst of elation.

However, frequent massive mood swings are not healthy. In most cases, a mood shift takes place naturally over time, or takes place and then resets. Regular or irregular mood swings can be an indication of a deeper problem or issue that needs to should be looked at more in depth.

young man sitting looking upset Common Causes of Mood Swings

Many different studies have looked at common causes of mood swings, and several repeat offenders tend to show up in these studies. Stress and anxiety are one of the leading reasons according to a study conducted by WebMD 1 and multiple other studies have confirmed that.

The more easily stressed out a person gets or the more frequently anxious they are, the more likely they are to suffer from significant changes in mood. Stress can be devastating to both emotional and physical health, and changes in either of those also can change your physiology. That can swing the mood one way or another.

Exercise, or the lack thereof, is also something that can affect mood. One of the best pieces of advice from individuals having issues with mood swings or even depression (or things that cause them like anxiety and stress) is to exercise. The physical effort causes hormones and chemicals to unleash in the body, which directly changes most people's emotional states. Regular exercise is a great way to push towards a better happy mood.

Going hand in hand with exercise is diet. Diet has long been known to have a significant effect on the body with healthy food increases the chance of naturally good moods, while a poor diet with sugar, chemicals, and few nutrients will help tank a person's mood. A sugar crash won't happen 100% of the time for everyone, but it's important to recognize the importance diet has when it comes to emotional lability and mood swings 2 .

Borderline personality disorder is more widely accepted as a condition that often leads to sudden and significant mood swings 3 . Many people have the occasional symptom or two that might seem like a mild version of depression, bipolar or another common mood based disorder; however, they don't show others. This is where BPD can indicate a slight issue of the body being "off" and causing mood shifts and needs to be considered.

Don't overestimate the effects that the environment can have. In other words, if you don't see the sun for a long time chances are your mood is going to shift - sometimes very heavily and for a very long winter 4 .

Even if you're not dealing with anything this extreme, a long bout of bad weather can affect mood negatively, while daily walks during sunny days, especially if surrounded by nature/woods, can help boost your mood. Allergies, emotional tone of the people around you, the type of media you listen to can all have a significant impact on shaping your current mood whether reinforcing it or changing it.

Finally, there are actual health issues. Mood disorders come in many different forms and many different styles, and because of that, sometimes the answer to major mood swings and changing emotions is figuring out if there is an actual mood disorder that is affecting things.

Depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), anxiety, ADHD, and dementia are just a few examples of mental illnesses or emotional disorders that can cause issues and lead to mood swings. There are also other types of problems that cause mood swings such as menopause or even perimenopause, Thyroid issues or disorders, and certain physical ailments.

There are a large number of issues that, from the physical or mental standpoint, cross over to cause those uprooted shifts in emotion and mood. Mood swings are often one of the results.

How Easily Can Moods Be Altered?

While most people think about negative mood swings, it is important to know that mood can often be adjusted towards being happy as well.

woman meditating on sand Meditation is another excellent practice that can help with mood 5 . It not only helps stabilize bad moods and teaches individuals how to more efficiently and completely let go of stress, anxiety, and frustration, but it also straight out increases the happy emotions of many practitioners.

The ability to alter a mood is going to depend on a variety of things including the depth of a mood, the factors that caused that particular emotional state to take place, and the full impact of the steps you're taking to improve it. There are plenty of options out there, and the good news is that many of them can be combined. Exercise outside in the sun after work, then after the shower a meditation. That's a simple schedule set up that puts many environmental factors on your side and helps you to shift things for your benefit.

When you make a conscious decision to work on happiness and to work on being in a good mood, you are far more likely to see success. When it comes to studying moods there is still a lot we don't know, but what we've learned already is pretty amazing!

Photo credits: Themalni/, AfricaStudio/, EvgenyAtamanenko/, pathdoc/

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