Mood swings can be frustrating, not only for those who have them, but also for those around them. Mood swings can be as volatile as an active volcano.
Calming someone with mood swings can be equally challenging. Andy Griffith’s once played someone whose moods shifted on a dime.
“Lonesome Rhodes had wild mood swings. He’d be very happy, he’d be very sad, he’d be very angry, very depressed. I had to pull all of these emotions out of myself. It wasn’t easy.” said Griffith, who played the character in the 1957 movie “A Face in the Crowd.”
For those suffering mood swings in real life, they are usually accompanied by some other mood disorder. People with mental chemical imbalances – like 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 them.
Statistically, more than 20 million people in the United States suffer from mood swings. Sometimes, this is as simple as lack of sleep. Sometimes it is something more serious.1
Four to five percent of all adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD can contribute to mood swings, as well as a myriad of 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 quickly. Comparatively, the mood swings of bipolar disorder are more “episodic.” They will last weeks or more before swinging again.
Mood swings are more common in those with ADHD because the disorder tends to magnify emotions. Because of this, everything seems more of a “code red” emotionally. This is not as pronounced in people without ADHD.
People with anxiety are also more likely to have stronger emotions, which can cause mood swings.
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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 the edge, they have a higher pulse rate and experience more feelings of jumpiness. It is easy to become irritable and moody, seemingly for no reason.
For those living which chronic stress, there are several different aromatherapy options. Zen is a blend of orange, frankincense, and ylang-ylang. Relieve, a blend of ginger, spikenard, and helichrysum, helps relieve both pain and stress. Happy, a blend of fennel, thyme, and vanilla, elevates mood. Vibrant, a mix of ginger, lemon, and spearmint, can lift the kind of sadness that keeps you glued to the couch, and instead make you feel more lively and effervescent.
There are many things that cause shifts in hormones. One is eating too much sugar, which sends insulin soaring, followed by a crash. Entering menopause, which causes estrogen levels to drop off, or male aging, which causes lower levels of testosterone, also shift hormones. These 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.” Her book 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 said.3
Some things that can keep hormone-induced mood swings in check include cutting out sugar. A keto diet can keep hormone levels regular and will reduce cravings, experts say. Adding exercise also helps boost the release of neurotransmitters that make dealing with stress easier.
While completely erasing stress from your life is impossible, learning how to manage it can ease hormonally-inspired mood swings, says Dr. Rebecca Amaru of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
“If you can change the way you handle [stress], you will see a favorable impact on your perimenopause symptoms,” she said. So, go for a walk, meditate, listen to music, whatever it is that helps you to de-stress.
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that control our brain. When they are out of balance due to diet or other health issues, mood swings can be elevated. The most important neurotransmitters associated with mood are serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. All of them make us feel secure and content.
If you’re suffering from chronic anxiety, however, neurotransmitters often aren’t able to combat it. While neurotransmitters can keep us from feeling elevated levels of anxiety, chronic stress can cause neurotransmitter levels to plummet, creating even more stress.
Those who use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate often suffer from mood swings as well. They not only suffer 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. These issues include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder. 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
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, for instance. 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. Sleepy, a blend of lavender, chamomile, and kava, can help you get the rest you need.
Photo credits: MikeDotta/shutterstock.com, liza54500/shutterstock.com, shurkin_son/shutterstock.com