Mood swings refer to a sudden change in a person's mood. These are episodes of a sudden, unpredictable change in the behavior. During such episodes, the emotional state of the affected individual may alternate between periods of happiness and depression. While the abrupt change in the mood could be in response to an event or any situation that the individual may have faced, mood swings could sometimes occur for no apparent reason. Certain medical conditions could also put a person at an increased risk of certain mood disorders. Depression and seasonal affective disorder are some of the mood disorders that may cause mood swings. Research has revealed that the incidence of mood swings is higher in women than men.
Why Do Women Experience Mood Swings?
Women are more likely to experience such dramatic shifts in mood due to hormonal changes that occur during their reproductive years.
The onset of puberty in girls is marked by menstruation. The bodily changes that occur at this time can cause mood swings in young girls. After the first occurrence of menstruation, their body undergoes a series of changes. Menstrual bleeding and thickening of endometrial lining are cyclical changes that occur every month due to the interactions between the hormones. This recurring cycle is called menstrual cycle, and it normally lasts between 28 to 35 days. Young girls or women may experience mood swings due to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). PMS is characterized by a group of physical and emotional symptoms that may appear before the period starts.
Though pregnancy brings great joy, women tend to get emotional due to the various bodily changes that take place during this time. Women may feel stressed due to morning sickness, fatigue, weight gain, and various other changes that are a part and parcel of pregnancy. Many a time, women worry about how their life could change drastically post pregnancy. Changes in hormone levels after pregnancy can also make them susceptible to postpartum depression. Sadness, anxiety, poor concentration, and sleep-related problems are some of the symptoms of this condition. Postpartum psychosis is a rare but severe form of depression in which the affected woman could harm herself or her baby.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Menopause refers to the cessation of menstruation. A woman said to have reached menopause, if she has not had a single period for a year. Perimenopause is a transitional period that precedes menopause. Usually women reach menopause after they turn 50, but the transitional period may begin in mid to late 40s. A host of symptoms may be experienced by women during perimenopause. Before menstruation stops completely, women experience changes in the menstrual cycle due to the decrease in the levels of estrogen. Besides irregularities in the menstrual cycle, they also experience physical as well as emotional symptoms. Hot flashes, night sweats, sleep-related problems, bladder problems, vaginal dryness, irritability, anxiety, and mood swings are some of the symptoms that may be experienced by women during this time. While hormonal changes are responsible for these symptoms, the physical discomfort that women experience during this time may cause stress which in turn may give rise to dramatic shifts in their mood.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released by the brain. These are chemical messengers that are responsible for modulating our mood and emotional responses. An imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), serotonin, and dopamine can give rise to mood swings and other mood disorders. Genetic predisposition, prolonged stress, exposure to environmental toxins, prolonged use of certain drugs, substance abuse, and alcohol abuse are some of the major contributory factors for such an imbalance.
Prolonged stress makes a person susceptible to many health problems. There are several factors that could give rise to stress. Stress may be triggered by issues at work, monetary problems, emotional problems, marital problems, health problems, and failed relationships. If the underlying cause of stress is not resolved soon, the affected individual may become susceptible to episodes of depression or mood swings.
Mood swings can be a symptom of a mental illness. Frequent, uncontrollable and violent mood swings could be a sign of bipolar disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 2.6% of adult American population is affected by this disorder in a given year. Seasonal affective disorder and depression are other mental illnesses that could cause dramatic shifts in mood. While depression is characterized by intense feelings of despair and sadness, bipolar depression is characterized by periods of mania/hypomania or depression. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by extreme shifts in mood. While the affected individual may feel very energetic during hypomanic episodes, impulsive and erratic behavior is observed during manic episodes. The manic episodes and depressive episodes may be separated by periods in which these individuals may seem to be normal. These episodes may be triggered by certain life events. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as winter blues, is a type of depression that occurs with the change of season. Mood swings, anxiety, irritability, low energy levels, and poor concentration are some of the symptoms that appear in the late fall or early winter. These symptoms resolve on their own as summer approaches. Women are more likely to get affected by SAD.
Dealing with Mood Changes
Frequent and excessive mood swings can hamper a woman's personal as well as professional life. To treat this condition, it is essential that she learns to exercise self-control. This is best done by undergoing therapies such as cognitive therapy, literary therapy, or behavioral therapy. If the underlying cause is hormonal imbalance, hormonal replacement therapy may be recommended.
Alternative Medicine and Therapies
Aromatherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture or acupressure can help a great deal in treating stress. Practicing yoga, deep breathing exercises and meditation can also prove beneficial.
Following a healthy lifestyle will prove beneficial not only in the treatment of mood swings, but also in promoting physical and emotional well-being. The affected individuals must follow a healthy diet that provides the body with the required nutrients. Follow a regular exercise regimen. Avoid smoking and refrain from excessive consumption of alcohol.
Mood swings can be easily dealt with, once the underlying cause or trigger for such rapid shifts in mood has been identified. Drug therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and lifestyle modifications can go a long way in resolving mood disorders. The importance of the support of family members and friends cannot be stressed enough. The support of the family can certainly help women cope better with the mood changes.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.