What are mood swings?
It’s normal for people’s moods to change - one minute you may feel happy, the next sad. But if you find yours is rapidly shifting on a regular basis and it is affecting your life - this could suggest an underlying condition.
Your mood swings could be down to hormonal changes, or another health condition. In the most serious cases, experiencing frequent and severe mood swings could indicate a mental health condition known as bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) or cyclothymia, which is a similar less severe condition.
If you have extreme mood changes on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to speak to a GP for more advice.
If the mood swings you’re experiencing are extreme and happen a lot, it could be a sign of an underlying condition, such as bipolar disorder.
Symptoms to look out for include regularly going from extreme highs, to extreme lows over a period of a few days or weeks. Signs it could be bipolar disorder include:
- during a high, or manic period, you may feel extremely happy, energetic, excited, confident and that you are untouchable. You may be unable to sleep and also see or hear things that aren’t there. It’s also common for people to spend lots of money they don’t have and engage in risky behaviours.
- during a low, or a depressive period, you may feel sad, tearful, lacking in confidence agitated, and have suicidal thoughts.
People may go through periods where they are stable, with no manic or depressive symptoms. How often the symptoms show themselves will vary from person to person.
When to see a doctor
These symptoms will have a significant impact on your day-to-day life, and it’s important to seek help to get the treatment you may need.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, how long they last and how often the occur. They’ll also want to know about your own and your family’s medical history, and how the symptoms are impacting your day-to-day life.
The doctor will want to rule out other conditions, such as a problem with your thyroid, before referring you to a specialist who can work with you to diagnose your condition.
While it’s impossible to completely ‘cure’ mood swings or bipolar disorder, there are a range of treatments that can be used to manage the condition to help reduce the amount of manic or depressive episodes you have, and the frequency.
A combination of medication, therapy and self-help are usually recommended. These aim to control the mood swings and equip those with the condition with the power to notice the trigger signs and take action to deal with them.
There are also a range of lifestyle changes that can be used to help the condition - including regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting enough sleep.
Your specialist will work really closely with you to find a treatment plan that works for you. It may be a case of trial and error before finding out which kind of treatment works best. As well as those mentioned above, treatments may include:
- medication called mood stabilisers to prevent the mood swings from happening
- medication for manic episodes
- medication for depression
- talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- hospital treatment - this is only usually recommended in severe situations or if you’re under the Mental Health Act
Like many mental health conditions, the root cause of mood swings and bipolar disorder are unknown.
Excess mood swings can occur at any age and may come about as the result of a trigger - such as prolonged or intense stress, major life events or trauma as a child. Bipolar disorder can also occur at any age but often onsets in the late teens or early 20s with at least half of cases developing before age 25.
Genetic factors are also thought to play a role particularly in bipolar disorder, as the condition can run in families. Changes in the brain’s chemistry are also thought to contribute to its development.
How we can help
With Push Doctor, you can see a GP online, over a video consultation at a time and place that suits you, which includes from the comfort of your own home. Our doctors can get a good understanding of your mood swings and listen to how they’re affecting your life.
If suitable, they can refer you to a specialist for further investigation and a diagnosis.The specialist will work with you on a treatment plan, to help stop the condition affecting your life as much as possible.
- Mind, Bipolar disorder, 01/05/2018.
- NHS, Cyclothymia, 01/12/2017.
- NHS, Bipolar disorder: Treatment, 26/04/2016.
Mental Health Articles
Updated: September 6, 2019