Everyone has experienced mood swings at some point: sometimes you are depressed and sad, sometimes happy and full of joie de vivre – depending on the situation in life. In addition to “normal” mood swings, there are also pathological forms, such as those caused by depression or bipolar disorder. Here you can read everything you need to know about the causes, diagnosis and treatment of mood swings and find out what you can do yourself against harmless mood swings.
- What are mood swings? Rapidly changing mood changes from joy or euphoria to sadness or aggression and vice versa. They can be “normal” (physiological) or abnormal (pathological).
- Causes: e.g. hormonal contraception, puberty, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) , menopause, lack of magnesium or sodium , hypoglycemia, migraines , bipolar disorder , borderline disorder, dementia , multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cirrhosis of the liver , drug addiction, pregnancy, ” baby blues “, postpartum depression , postpartum psychosis.
- When to see the doctor? For severe, long-lasting or recurring mood swings with no apparent cause. If other mental or physical symptoms occur at the same time. For mood swings during puberty, when additional symptoms such as persistent sadness, aggressiveness or eating disorders appear.
- Examinations: Initial consultation, physical and neurological examinations, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI), ultrasound (sonography).
- Treatment: Appropriate medical treatment of disease-related causes. If you have slight mood swings, you can also become active yourself, for example with medicinal plants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, L-tryptophan, homeopathy.
Mood swings: causes
Mood swings are rapidly changing emotional states – from joy or euphoria to sadness or aggression and vice versa. A distinction is made between physiological (“normal”) and pathological (morbid) mood swings.
The most important causes of changing moods include:
- Puberty: Due to the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty, many young people suffer from irritability and severe mood swings.
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): This complex of symptoms on the days before the menstrual period can include, for example, mood swings, depression, inner restlessness, anxiety, food cravings, sleep problems, flatulence, abdominal cramps and chest pain.
- Menopause (climacteric): The characteristic symptoms include hot flashes, dizziness, nausea, libido disorders (libido = sexual desire) and mood swings.
- Magnesium deficiency: A persistent magnesium deficiency can cause mood swings, depression, reduced stress tolerance, anxiety, nervousness, headaches , leg cramps , spasms of the smooth muscles (e.g. in the stomach , intestines , bladder and uterus ), tachycardia and a feeling of pressure behind the breastbone trigger.
- Lack of sodium: If the body has too little sodium available in the long term, this can lead to circulatory disorders, low blood pressure and mood swings.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Exhaustion, headaches, difficulty concentrating and behavioral problems, irritability, waking up at night, cravings for sweets and mood swings can accompany low blood sugar.
- Migraine: In the so-called prodromal phase (hours or days before the headache attack), various symptoms can occur such as mood swings, inner restlessness, lack of concentration , appetite, excessive thirst, shivering, water retention in the tissue (oedema), sleep and digestive disorders.
- Bipolar affective disorder (formerly: manic-depressive illness): Extreme mood swings characterize the clinical picture of a bipolar affective disorder. Those affected oscillate between euphoria (mania) and extreme despondency (depression).
- Borderline Disorder: People with borderline syndrome find it difficult to regulate their wildly fluctuating emotions. Among other things, they suffer from severe, unpredictable mood swings.
- Dementia: When dementia begins, for example, the short-term memory no longer works reliably. In addition, the patients can no longer correctly assess complex situations and facts. In addition, there are orientation problems in unfamiliar surroundings, word-finding disorders and mood swings.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): Accompanying symptoms of this chronic inflammatory disease of the nervous system are, for example, mental disorders with mood swings and reactive depression.
- Parkinson’s disease (shaking paralysis): In this neurological disease, nerve cells in the brain are gradually destroyed. In addition to the main symptoms of lack of movement through to immobility, tremors at rest and muscle stiffness, mood swings and/or sleep disorders can occur.
- Liver cirrhosis: In this case, the progressive destruction of liver tissue triggers not only symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, a feeling of pressure and fullness in the upper abdomen and skin abnormalities, but also dementia-like symptoms, including memory loss, disorientation and mood swings.
- Drug addiction: Addicts very often suffer from emotional disorders such as depressive symptoms and mood swings. This also applies to drug addiction.
Mood swings from the pill
Women on birth control pills are also prone to mood changes. Combined preparations with estrogen and progestin can trigger depressive moods as a side effect. However, this does not apply to the so-called mini-pill, which only contains progestin.
Mood swings in pregnant women
Mood swings during pregnancy are not uncommon – the hormonal changes and the psychological challenge are behind the rapid change between feelings of happiness and sadness. Mood swings usually go away on their own after the second trimester of pregnancy.
Mood swings in young mothers
Many young mothers suffer from unstable mood in the first period after giving birth. The rapid change in feelings can usually be traced back to one of three possible causes:
- Postpartum Blues (“Baby Blues”)
A “baby blues ” (also “baby blues”) usually appears between the third and tenth day after birth. Signs include excessive worry about the baby and the future, tearfulness, depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability, previously unknown aggression, mood swings, feelings of confusion, and mild sleep and appetite disturbances.
Numerous experts do not see the “baby blues” as a psychological disorder, but as a normal reaction of the new mother to the numerous changes that birth and motherhood bring with them. The symptoms usually go away on their own over time. However, the baby blues can also develop into postpartum depression.
- Postpartum depression (postpartum depression)
Postpartum depression develops in the first few weeks, usually up to the third month after delivery, and is one of the most common postpartum complications. The main symptoms are persistent sadness, loss of zest for life and interest (especially in the baby) and a feeling of worthlessness.
Experts suspect that the interaction of several factors triggers postpartum depression. For example, lack of sleep, physical and mental exhaustion, babies who cry a lot (crying babies), and mental disorders in the medical history of the woman or her family play a role.
- Postpartum Psychosis
This serious mental disorder after childbirth is very rare. It usually develops within the first few hours or days after delivery. Experts distinguish three forms of postpartum psychosis:
- Typical of the manic form are, for example, overexcitement, megalomania, a low need for sleep as well as motor restlessness and delusions.
- The depressive form, on the other hand, shows the typical features of severe depression. In addition, those affected lose touch with reality.
- The schizophrenic form is associated, among other things, with extreme listlessness, hallucinations, delusions and a lack of reality.
In addition to these three forms of postpartum psychosis, mixed forms can also occur.
Mood Swings: When Should You See a Doctor?
In the following cases, it is better to have your symptoms clarified medically:
- The rapid alternation between highs and lows lasts longer or keeps coming back.
- The mood swings are very strong.
- You cannot explain your mood swings.
- You notice other mental and/or physical symptoms.
- In the case of mood swings during puberty, additional symptoms such as persistent sadness, aggressiveness or eating disorders occur.
Mood swings: diagnosis
Your doctor will first talk to you in detail about your medical history (anamnesis). Among other things, it is about how long the mood swings have existed, how severe they are, whether they were triggered by a specific event and whether other symptoms occur.
In order to find the cause of the mood swings or to rule out certain diseases, various examinations are available, for example:
- Physical examination: The physical examination is part of the routine for patients with unexplained symptoms such as mood swings.
- Blood tests: A magnesium or sodium deficiency as well as possible cirrhosis of the liver can be recognized from the blood count.
- Neurological examinations: If there is a suspicion of a neurological disease such as migraine, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or dementia, the doctor checks the functionality and conductivity of the nerves. These neurological examinations include, for example, electroneurography (ENG).
- Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRT): These are very detailed imaging procedures that can be used to detect neurological diseases as a trigger for mood swings.
- Ultrasound (sonography): If the doctor suspects, for example, cirrhosis of the liver behind the mood swings, an ultrasound examination of the liver can help.
Mood swings: treatment
If the mood swings are caused by an illness that requires treatment – such as a migraine, borderline disorder or dementia – suitable medical therapy can help: if the underlying illness can be brought under control, the changeable mood often improves as well.
What you can do yourself
If you are experiencing mood swings, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If no medical cause is found, there are a number of things you can do to manage your mood swings, such as:
- Exercise: Physical activity has a positive effect on physical and mental well-being. Mood-enhancing endorphins and “happiness hormones” such as dopamine and serotonin are released in increased amounts, especially through endurance training (e.g. walking, jogging, swimming). Exercise also promotes muscle relaxation and helps reduce stress.
- Relaxation: Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation show positive effects on mental well-being, can make you more balanced and help you deal with stress better.
- Diet: A balanced and varied diet (lots of plant-based foods supplemented by meat, fish and dairy products) can prevent disease and provide the body with the nutrients it needs. This sometimes affects not only the body, but also the mind.
- Avoid sugar and other simple carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates (e.g. in grains, potatoes, vegetables) keep you full for longer and prevent sharp fluctuations in blood sugar, which can affect mood.
- Medicinal plants: In the case of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), medicinal plants (valerian, lemon balm, lavender, passion flower, etc.) can have a calming and relaxing effect. Herbal preparations with black cohosh and chaste tree are also often recommended. These should also be effective for menopausal symptoms. The same applies to preparations with red clover. In addition, St. John’s wort is often used for mood swings, depressive moods, restlessness, nervous stomach and sleep disorders.
- Vitamin B6: Studies suggest that vitamin B6 can relieve typical PMS symptoms such as mood swings, irritability or anxiety. The additional intake of vitamin B2 and magnesium can be useful. Talk to your doctor about this.
- L-tryptophan: According to studies, this protein building block (amino acid) also has a positive effect on mood. L-tryptophan is found, for example, in milk, cheese, beef, poultry, potatoes and nuts.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: They can also have a stabilizing effect on mood and are found, for example, in rapeseed, walnut, soybean and linseed oil as well as in fatty fish such as mackerel and herring.
- Sharing with others: People who are experiencing their mood swings should talk about their feelings with their partner or close friends and/or share with others who are affected.
- Homeopathy: Homeopaths recommend about Cimicifuga 12X, Ignatia 30X and Pulsatilla 12X for mood swings.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol can worsen mood swings.
- Talk to someone you trust: Talking to a friend, family member, or therapist can help you to cope with your mood swings.
If your mood swings are severe or interfere with your ability to function in daily life, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you to identify the cause of your mood swings and develop a treatment plan. Most medical insurance plans will cover the cost of treatment for mood swings, if the condition is diagnosed by a doctor. However, it is important to check your policy carefully to see what is covered.
Many employers and Medical Insurance plans now offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP can provide confidential counselling and support to employees who are struggling with a variety of issues, including mood swings. If your employer offers an EAP, you can contact them to find out more about the services they offer. A person’s mental well-being is just as important as their physical health and that is why an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available through our partnership with Telus, a world-leading EAP, to all persons insured through the HanseMerkur Medical Insurance Plans, globally, 24 hours a day, to help deal with a wide range of issues related to Family, Health, Life, Money and Work. Counselling sessions can be a helpful way to manage mood swings. A counsellor can help you to understand the cause of your mood swings and develop coping mechanisms. Counselling sessions can also provide you with support and guidance as you work through your mood swings.
If you are struggling with mood swings, there are a number of resources available to help you. With the right support, you can manage your mood swings and live a happy and healthy life.