Are mood swings interfering with your life?


Yesterday you felt like you could conquer the world, but today you’d rather not get out of bed. Occasional mood changes are perfectly normal. But when are mood swings something to be concerned about?

Causes of mood swings

The phrase “mood swing” generally means you fluctuate between emotions. Your mood can naturally change for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Diet: Malnourishment, caffeine withdrawal, or blood sugar peaks and valleys can all contribute to emotional ups and downs.
  • Sleep disruptions: People need enough high-quality sleep to feel their best each day.
  • Stress: Deadlines, new routines or relationship woes can influence mood.
  • Weather: Anything from cloud-covered days to an uptick in allergens can leave you feeling off.

Normal mood swings shouldn’t interfere too much with daily living. It’s time to contact your provider when mood swings are:

  • Frequent: You experience them more than occasionally.
  • Rapid: You have moment-to-moment emotional changes.
  • Extreme: You consider self-harm or have uncontrollable excitability.

When to see a provider about extreme mood swings

Extreme mood swings may signal an underlying condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a health care professional. Your mood swings could be related to:

Mental health

Mood disorders can cause significant shifts in your mood. Examples include:

  • ADHD: This condition is marked by mood changes such as hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.
  • Bipolar disorder: This mood disorder can cause you to go from feelings of extreme sadness to extreme happiness. Cyclothymia is a milder disorder that has less severe ups and downs than bipolar disorder.
  • Clinical depression: You feel extreme sadness for an extended period. Persistent depressive disorder is a long-term form of depression.
  • Personality disorder: People with borderline personality disorder commonly experience intense and frequent mood swings.
  • Schizophrenia: The delusions that accompany schizophrenia can significantly impact mood.


Hormones impact brain chemistry and cause mood shifts. Hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy or menopause could be responsible for extreme mood changes. Some medications to help regulate menstrual cycles can also contribute to mood swings.

Substance use

Drugs and alcohol can lead to mood swings, particularly if you use them to excess. If you are trying to quit using substances, you may experience more significant mood shifts.


You may be more prone to mood swings if you have illnesses such as:

  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Thyroid disorders

Mood swings treatment

If you experience sudden onset of intense mood swings or become suicidal, you should seek immediate medical care. If you notice your mood swings are more prominent, frequent or impactful than before, contact your health care provider.

Your provider will work to determine the cause of your mood swings and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include:

  • Medication: Mood stabilizers can regulate brain chemistry, so you experience fewer or less intense mood shifts.
  • Therapy: Psychotherapy interventions can help you learn to recognize and stop the automatic thoughts that are detrimental to your mood.

Your provider may also recommend lifestyle changes to help you cope with mood swings:

  • Journaling: Paying attention to and recording your mood may help you identify and avoid triggering behaviors.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can boost and regulate mood.
  • Nutrition: Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can keep your mind and body healthy.
  • Relaxation: Practices such as meditation can help you identify negative or spiraling thoughts, then calm them.

For information on mental health, please contact the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.