What causes mood swings?
Mood swings can be associated with psychiatric conditions, substance abuse, medication side effects, or chronic medical conditions.
Mood swings are common with medications, medical conditions, and substances that affect the central nervous system. They can be associated with conditions that can deprive the brain of nutrients and oxygen. Mood swings can also occur with hormonal changes.
Psychiatric causes of mood swings
Mood swings may be caused by psychiatric conditions including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder (disorder characterized by unstable relationships)
- Intermittent explosive disorder (disorder characterized by extreme anger)
- Postpartum depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Substance abuse
Other causes of mood swings
Mood swings can have other causes including:
- Brain tumors
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease
- Head injury
- Medication side effects
- Sleep disorders
Serious or life-threatening causes of mood swings
In some cases, mood swings may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:
- Acute delirium (sudden onset of mental status changes due to illness or toxicity)
- Alcohol poisoning or drug overdose
- Mania (elevated mood and energy levels that can occur in bipolar disorder)
- Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)
- Traumatic brain injury
Questions for diagnosing the cause of mood swings
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your mood swings including:
- When did you first notice your mood swings?
- What moods do you experience when you have mood swings?
- Does anything make them better or worse?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Do you have any other psychiatric or medical problems?
- What medications are you taking?
- Do you drink any alcohol?
- Are you using any illicit drugs?
What are the potential complications of mood swings?
Because mood swings can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Brain damage, memory loss, attention difficulties, and impaired judgment
- Difficulties at work, in school, in social environments, and with relationships
- Drug and alcohol use and abuse
- Drug overdose or alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk of injury
- Legal or financial troubles
- Suicide or violence
Major depression. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001941/. Accessed May 29, 2011.
Mood disorders. Ohio State University Medical Center. http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/mental_health/mental_health_about/mood/Pages/index.aspx. Accessed May 29, 2011.
What are mood swings?
Mood swings are excessive or abrupt changes in your frame of mind. Your mood may suddenly shift from elation and euphoria to extreme sadness or terror, and then on to another emotion. In some cases, mood changes are reactions to your environment or circumstances, although the intensity of the mood might seem out of proportion with the significance of the event. In other cases, mood swings ... Read more about mood swings introduction