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Why are some people more prone to mood swings than others?

Mood swings can be frustrating not only for those who have them, but also for people who are around those whose moods can be as volatile as an active volcano.

Channeling someone with mood swings can be equally challenging, according to one famous actor whose first big role required playing someone whose moods shifted on a dime.

“Lonesome Rhodes had wild mood swings. He’ be very happy, he’d be very sad, he’d be very angry, very depressed, and I had to pull all of these emotions out of myself. And it wasn’t easy,” said the late actor Andy Griffith, who played the character in the 1957 movie “A Face in the Crowd.” It was his first role, and it likely helped him hone his skills for his future endeavors, including playing the longtime role of Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

But for those suffering mood swings in real life, they are usually accompanied by some other mood disorder such as depression, but chemical imbalances – such as those that cause attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and addiction – are four times as likely to have mood swings than those without those problems.

According to statistics, more than 20 million people in the United States suffer from mood swings, sometimes due to something as simple as lack of sleep, and sometimes because of something more serious. 1


Four to five percent of all adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can be linked to mood swings, as well as myriad other symptoms including difficulty concentrating, problems with organization, difficulty meeting deadlines, procrastination, depression, forgetfulness, low self-esteem, a low tolerance level for frustration, relationship problems and motivational issues. 2

The mood swings associated with ADHD can switch from happy to dour to frustrated all in one day, while the mood swings of bipolar disorder are more “episodic,” according to experts, and will last weeks or more before swinging again.

Mood swings are more common in those with ADHD because the disorder tends to magnify emotions, making everything seem more of a “code red” for those with the disorder than for those who don’t have it.


People with anxiety are also more likely to have stronger emotions, which can cause mood swings.

As we talked about in the recent blog post “Mood: The Good, the Bad and the Changing,” hormones and neurotransmitters play a big role in anxiety, and low levels of some important neurotransmitters including GABA, dopamine, and serotonin can cause feelings of stress and anxiety.

Because those with anxiety live on edge, with a higher pulse rate and feelings of jumpiness, it is easy to become irritable and moody, seemingly for no reason.

Hormonal shifts

There are many things that cause shifts in hormones – eating too much sugar, which sends insulin soaring, then crashing like a burst balloon, entering into menopause, which causes estrogen levels to drop off, or male aging, which causes lower levels of testosterone – and shifts in hormones are often tied to mood swings.

For women whose hormonal shifts trigger mood swings, the fluctuations can become overwhelming, says Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of “The Wisdom of Menopause and Women’s Bodies,” which looks at what to expect when estrogen levels drop. “Sometimes it gets to the point of feeling totally overwhelmed as if for a time they have lost control of their life,” she told 3

Some things that can keep hormone-induced mood swings in check include cutting out sugar from your diet – a keto diet can keep hormone levels regular and will reduce cravings, experts say – and adding exercise when you can, which will help boost the neurotransmitters that make dealing with stress a little bit easier.

While completely erasing stress from your life is impossible, learning how to manage it, says Dr. Rebecca Amaru of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, can ease hormonally-inspired mood swings.

“If you can change the way you handle [stress] - go for a walk, meditate, listen to music, whatever it is that helps you to de-stress - you will see a favorable impact on your perimenopause symptoms,” she said.


Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that keep us calm, and when they are out of balance due to diet or other health issues, (learn more in our blog post here ), mood swings can be elevated. The most important neurotransmitters associated with mood include serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, all of which make us feel good and keep us calm.

If you’re suffering from chronic anxiety, however, neurotransmitters often can’t do their job. While neurotransmitters can keep us from feeling elevated levels of anxiety, chronic stress can cause neurotransmitter levels to plummet, creating even more stress.

Substance abuse

Those who use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate often suffer from mood swings, not only when they are under the influence, but also when they are going through withdrawal symptoms. According to the National Institutes of Health, drinking and drug use can be linked to a variety of different psychiatric issues including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, and symptoms can mirror one another so closely that it can be tricky to diagnose and treat the root cause of the substance abuse itself. 4

Mental Fatigue

Long-term anxiety can leave your body feeling exhausted, so much so that it becomes impossible to handle even the smallest stress-inducing event. (Think about new moms who find themselves in tears at the grocery store, or adults who are juggling jobs, aging parents and teens at the same time.) Anxiety can be incredibly tiring. So, when anxiety begins to creep in, panic attacks, rage, depression, and other mood swings are possible due to sheer exhaustion.

To handle mood swings and find ways to feel happier, try aromatherapy – we’ve mentioned some great options above – get exercise, find ways to have fulfilling physical contact, eat a healthy diet and try to get enough sleep.

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