Why You Have Mood Swings and How You Can Control Them

Mood swings can be upsetting, mysterious, and affect your relationships. In addition, it's important to identify if they're normal or the sign of an underlying condition.
Why You Have Mood Swings and How You Can Control Them
María Betancur

Written and verified by the psychologist María Betancur.

Last update: 11 November, 2022

Many people suffer from frequent mood swings. They can be sudden, for no apparent reason, or generated by external situations. Whatever the reason, they’re mystifying and uncomfortable and sometimes affect our daily lives and the relationships with those close to us. As well as being annoying, they’re not always ‘normal’ and could be a symptom of an underlying disorder.

In this article, we’ll explain mood swings. They’ll help you decide if you need to see a professional.

Mood swings

Mood swings are rapid and marked fluctuations in mood. For example, you can go from an emotional state governed by joy to another ruled by anger, sadness, or fear. As well as recognizing the consequences yourself, those around you in your work, social, or family environment will also notice them.

Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can experience these types of mood swings. That said, adolescence seems to be a particularly critical stage.

Women are also more vulnerable to these changes, due to their fluctuating estrogen levels. This doesn’t mean that men are exempt, as testosterone can also play a part, and make them experience sudden changes in their emotions. However, in men, mood swings are mainly manifested by feelings of isolation and apathy, caused by everyday or simple situations.

Teenager angry with her mother

Why do mood swings occur?

Mood swings can have different origins. They can be due to biological as well as psychological causes.

Among these are hormonal variations, the menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy, some diseases (hypothyroidism, diabetes, anemia), medical procedures (chemotherapy), the consumption of drugs or psychoactive substances, the use of some medications, the deficiency of certain vitamin, stress, some psychological disorders, and personal or family problems.

Some psychological explanations suggest that differences in temperament and personality traits can influence certain individuals and they present greater variations in their moods than others. This would explain why some of us are calm and stable while others tend to be more changeable, irritable, explosive, fearful, or sad.

Unsurprisingly, those with negative temperaments or personality traits are usually the ones who experience the most mood swings.

Although mood swings can be temporary, when they last a long time or are frequent or intense, they could be a sign of a mental illness. For instance, depression, anxiety, cyclothymia, bipolar affective disorder, and borderline personality disorder, among others. In these cases, mental illness would be the cause of mood swings.

On the other hand, there are some additional aspects, related to certain habits, that can cause emotional changes. These include a poor diet, too much or no exercise, and sleep problems, especially insomnia.

Management strategies for mood swings

If you’re experiencing mood swings, you must first identify the trigger or cause. Try and figure out if your state of mind has changed due to any internal or external causes. Is it an excessive emotion, out of context, or associated with a problem that has a solution?

One exercise you can carry out is to fill out a record of your mood changes to identify what may be affecting you.

Another important aspect is to try to be aware of your emotions. One option is to practice being in the present (mindfulness). It means you observe the changes in your emotions but don’t try to face them.

This doesn’t mean that you should solely focus on your emotions. In fact, you should observe them while continuing with your normal activities, refocusing your attention on what’s really important at the current time.

Emotional regulation strategies, such as diaphragmatic breathing and meditation exercises can be really helpful. You must also make sure you express your emotions. So, find a support network or someone with whom you can express yourself openly.

It’s also advisable to reduce your stress levels and engage in pleasant activities, eat healthily, take plenty of exercise, and make sure you sleep well.

Man in psychological therapy

Seek help

On the other hand, if your mood swings aren’t mainly fleeting experiences and you don’t understand why they’re happening, you should seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist. This will make it easier for you to identify their patterns and causes and learn some strategies to solve the problem.

Finally, we must stress that it’s impossible to always be in a good mood. After all, both your positive and negative moods are a part of your emotional life. It’s only natural that some situations will affect you, and that you’ll occasionally feel unhappy, sad, or angry. It only becomes a problem when your fluctuating moods begin to seriously affect your quality of life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Greenberger, D., Padesky, C.A.  (2016). El control de tu estado de ánimo. Cambia lo que sientes, cambiando cómo piensas. Segunda Edición. Paidós.
  • Pérez, J. F. (2010). Ansiedad y respiración diafragmática. Enfermería integral: Revista científica del Colegio Oficial de Enfermería de Valencia, (89), 16-18.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.